Panel makes pitch for his­tor­i­cally black col­leges

Mor­gan State event fo­cuses on im­por­tance of schools

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Chris Kal­tenbach

His­tor­i­cally black col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties need to main­tain their identities while stress­ing their ac­com­plish­ments and continuing rel­e­vance, all while seek­ing in­creased public and pri­vate sup­port, those at a 150th-an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion for HBCUs were told Satur­day at Mor­gan State Univer­sity.

“I’ve had that con­ver­sa­tion, ‘Why should peo­ple send their kids to HBCUs?’ ” Brian Bridges, vice pres­i­dent for re­search and mem­ber en­gage­ment with the United Ne­gro Col­lege Fund, told a group of about 50 gath­ered in the au­di­to­rium of Mor­gan’s Earl G. Graves School of Business & Man­age­ment. “I think that we have to be­lieve in these in­sti­tu­tions.”

One of the keys to en­sur­ing the continuing rel­e­vance of HBCUs is to em­pha­size the vi­tal role they serve in ed­u­cat­ing a sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age of the country’s black pop­u­la­tion, an­other panel mem­ber said.

Forty-two per­cent of African-Amer­i­cans with ad­vanced de­grees and 50 per­cent of teach­ing pro­fes­sion­als are grad­u­ates of the country’s more than 100 HBCUs, noted Le­zli Baskerville, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for Equal Op­por­tu­nity in Higher Ed­u­ca­tion.

“We should call on … the HBCU com­mu­nity to lead the na­tion from its cur­rent po­si­tion of di­vi­sion, its cur­rent po­si­tion with Africanances­try peo­ple and other peo­ple of color be­ing left behind,” she said.

Not­ing the number of aca­demic de­grees HBCUs have awarded over the past 30 years, Bridges said peo­ple should con­sider “where the African-Amer­i­can would be with­out those 1.3 mil­lion de­grees. … There would be a mas­sive chasm in the mid­dle of the AfricanAmer­i­can com­mu­nity.”

Peo­ple also need to un­der­stand, at­ten­dees were told, that HBCUs are not his­tor­i­cal relics that have out­lived their use­ful­ness, but key com­po­nents of higher ed­u­ca­tion.

Panel mem­bers added that HBCUs have long been forced to make do with less than other col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties re­ceive, and they called on the gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor to ease that dis­par­ity.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment, for in­stance, spends about 2.8 per­cent of its high­ere­d­u­ca­tion bud­get on HBCUs, Bridges said. Dou­bling that would bring in “a few bil­lion dol­lars. That’s real money that could make a difference at the in­sti­tu­tions.”

And at the pri­vate level, Baskerville noted, the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity has a com­bined in­come es­ti­mated at $1.3 tril­lion. She floated the idea of us­ing one-tenth of 1 per­cent of that, or $1 bil­lion, to set up an en­dow­ment fund for HBCUs.

The panel dis­cus­sion closed a three-day cel­e­bra­tion mark­ing the found­ing of nine in­sti­tu­tions — the core of what would be­come known as the HBCUs — in the af­ter­math of the Civil War. In ad­di­tion to Mor­gan, they in­clude Alabama State Univer­sity, Bar­berS­co­tia Col­lege (North Carolina), Fayet­teville State Univer­sity (North Carolina), Howard Univer­sity (Wash­ing­ton, D.C.), Johnson C. Smith Univer­sity (North Carolina), More­house Col­lege (Ge­or­gia), St. Au­gus­tine’s Univer­sity (North Carolina) and Tal­ladega Col­lege (Alabama).

KIM HAIRSTON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Le­zli Baskerville, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for Equal Op­por­tu­nity in Higher Ed­u­ca­tion, speaks Satur­day dur­ing Mor­gan State Univer­sity’s recog­ni­tion of his­tor­i­cally black col­leges. Look­ing on are Arthur McMa­hon, left, and Brian Bridges.

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