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E 11-2020        November 2-9th, 2020

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It’s Time To Invest More in HBCUs

By Olivia Fletcher

What do Oprah Winfrey, Toni Morrison, and Kamala Harris have in common? They are all alumnae of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs.

HBCUs produce a significant amount of notable Black figures in all professions.  They provide Black students with the chance to be in a classroom with people that look like them. This is something Black students at predominantly white institutions, or PWIs, don’t have the luxury of experiencing. A college or university is considered a PWI when at least 50% of its members are white.

According to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, “HBCUs have one-eight of the average size of endowments than historically white colleges and universities.” Currently, according to the Network Journal, among African-Americans, HBCU graduates represent 40% of the members of congress, 12.5% of CEOs, 40% of engineers, 50% of professors at non-HBCUs, 50% of Lawyers, and 80% of judges.

These statistics are even more significant when you consider the account that in 2015 only 9% of Black students enrolled in college were enrolled in an HBCU, according to Pew Research Center. I can only imagine the impact HBCUs would have if they received even half the amount of endowments or funding that PWIs receive.

Lynda Cambell is a student who attended both a PWI and an HBCU. She started her freshman year at the University of California, Santa Cruz, then transferred her junior year, continuing her education at Howard University. I asked Lynda if her PWI received more funding that affected her college experience in any way positive or negative. Lynda quickly noted that in comparison, she noticed HBCU’s insufficient funding in many ways, like having access to fewer computer labs, less effective transportation around campus, and fewer advisors per student.

“Compared to UC Santa Cruz, Howard has a lot less advisors. I feel like my advisor doesn't have enough time to get to know me because they have so many students to attend to. At UC Santa Cruz, you feel like your advisor is personally dedicated to your academic success… Overall, PWIs have more resources to help ensure your success and people that care about you. I know this is because they have more funding and can hire more personnel.”

As a student that also transferred from a PWI to an HBCU, I can attest to the validity of Lynda’s statement. I went to Howard Community College and then transferred to Howard University. At Howard Community College, a well-funded institution, there were many advisors that were always able to attend to you. However, at Howard University it can sometimes be a struggle to reach your advisor because they have so many students to attend to. It is unsatisfactory that a community college which typically receives less funding than universities is still better funded in certain areas than Howard University.

Since the Black Lives Matter movement gained significant attention, many famous people have made generous donations to HBCUs. For instance, MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, donated millions of dollars to various HBCUs in July 2020. In addition, many major corporations have pledged to donate more to HBCUs in upcoming years. However, if we want HBCUs to have equal funding, we cannot solely rely on philanthropists. We need to demand our government starts investing in HBCUs the same way that they invest in PWIs.

HBCUs were created because they were once the only place Blacks could get a college education. It is no secret that throughout history Blacks have received a lesser education than Whites. Even when HBCUs prove how beneficial they are for Black students, time and time again they are still underfunded. In the long run, investing in HBCUs also helps close the racial wealth gap. If we want to invest in Black education and Black professionals, we need to invest in HBCUs.