Fighting For Survival

Career College Central summary:

  • Elizabeth City State University faced a brief existential crisis last month when North Carolina lawmakers toyed with the idea of closing the historically black institution. The lawmakers backed off, but the episode was just one in a series of challenges facing the country’s 40 public historically black four-year colleges and universities.
  • Enrollment declines, cuts to government financial aid, leadership controversies and heightened oversight are working together to threaten some HBCUs in new ways and perhaps even jeopardize their existence, according to people who study, work with and have led HBCUs. Some private black colleges, like other tuition-dependent private institutions, are also struggling, but public HBCUs are being tugged at by a variety of forces, old and new.
  • Some of the problems are, of course, historic. Public black colleges were created as part of segregated higher education systems, were starved for resources for much of their history, and generally lack the academic facilities, faculty salary pools and other features found at top public universities. In an era when state leaders are talking about degree completion and speeding up graduation times, many public HBCUs remain proud of historic missions that include taking chances on students who went to poor high schools and who may face long odds.
  • When Tiffany Jones, an analyst at the Southern Education Foundation, visited one public HBCU to talk about the effects of performance funding on the university, officials there told her that it was “because of race that they were being targeted by the state system of higher education and their history of limited resources had provided them with limited ammunition to fight back.”  

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