Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are having more than a moment, and they are finally getting recognition for the contributions they have made to this country. Their mission has manifested in the development of the next generations of leaders, including Vice President Kamala Harris, voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, Senator Raphel Warnock, and White House senior advisor Cedric Richmond, to name a few. HBCUs have always had dynamic faculty to challenge and develop the minds of students, and now we see Howard University continue to build on that legacy with its recent hiring of Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehesi Coates. With an increase in enrollment, athletic programs hiring former NFL players as football coaches, and recruiting top student-athletes, the spotlight on HBCUs brings positive press and gifts unlike anything seen in recent years.
HBCUs are engines of upward mobility and job creation for their graduates, and these recent investments are imperative if the nation is to see progress in racial, social, and economic equity. Yet, many outside the Black community do not know much about these illustrious institutions, how their existence has countered the narrative of White supremacy, and how—despite the effects of discriminatory funding—they have continued to survive for over a century.
A fuller understanding of the history and current financial standing of HBCUs is more important than ever. In the coming months, Congress is expected to consider legislation to invest a trillion dollars in infrastructure, and additional trillions in a Build Back Better plan that, among other things, would support families to be able to afford to enroll at community colleges, HBCUs, and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). The plan also proposes additional support for HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and MSIs to strengthen their academic, administrative, and fiscal capabilities, such as creating or expanding educational programs in high-demand fields (for example, STEM, computer sciences, nursing, and allied health).
Various proposals from legislators and the Biden administration are welcome indeed, but given the historic injustices and underinvestment in Black communities specifically and the colleges and universities that serve them, the proposals do not go far enough. Now is the moment for a historic investment that will bring unprecedented resources to HBCUs, giving them the stability and financial independence that will propel them from this moment of recognition to excellence that endures.
Read the full article about equity for HBCUs by Denise A. Smith at The Century Foundation.
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