The role and relevance of HBCUs

mie-spelman-logo-vert.jpgFor the first time, U.S. News and World Report provided a separate ranking of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) with the top 5 being Spelman, Howard, Hampton, Morehouse, and Fisk (in that order). The ranking was not surprising to me (although I did expect Morehouse to be higher) but what was shocking to to me was a fact I heard while listening to Tavis Smiley. Tavis was interviewing Kenneth Terrell, an editor from U.S. and World report, when I heard Terrell express his surprise about the collective endowment of all HBCUs. It’s 2 billion dollars combined for over 100 schools. Even though I was well aware of the financial struggles of HBCUs, like Tavis, I was floored.

2 billion dollars?! That’s the same endowment of Williams College–one school with 1,000 fewer students than Morehouse. Harvard’s endowment is about 16 times that of all HBCUs combined. Amazing.

In the process of thinking about why these schools are so underfunded, I began thinking about broader issues with HBCUs. Are they still relevant today as they were when they were established? How well do these homogeneous settings prepare students for a heterogeneous world? For whom are they most appropriate?

Despite being a proud graduate of an HBCU myself, I can’t help but feel conflicted about some of these issues. On the one hand, HBCUs serve as important pipelines to all sorts of professions, and it is a fact that they are responsible for a large portion of the black professional workforce. They also serve as important centers for cultural affirmation in a world where blacks continue to be the most stigmatized. On the other hand, HBCUs offer fewer opportunities for students to grow beyond their cultural comfort zones, in my mind, a critical aspect of postsecondary education.

What say you?


22 Responses to “The role and relevance of HBCUs”

  1. 1 Wa'il October 22, 2007 at 8:02 am

    In a conversation such as the one this article provokes, I believe the ultimate question is what educational policies will benefit the majority and reach the most disadvantaged in the black community. Black children need the resources and comfort that will expand their growth, development and contribution to civilization. Black institutions will provide a broad foundation for the upliftment of a large number of our people. Our collective talents should be nurtured based upon policies and curriculum founded on kujichagalia. “GIFTEDNWESS REQUIRES SOCIAL CONTEXT THAT ENABLES IT” A. Tannenbaum. Our collective gifts can be nurtured properly in systems that we own and control. If we could only put the full force of the $800 billion dollars our community spends every year behind our own educational institutions. Catholic Schools have their own systems so what are the black churches waiting for? Our disadvantaged children are exposed to the prison pipeline that is this broken public school system and ouy “advantaged” black folk can provide no refuge. But they sure have many opinions concerning them “lower economic folks”

  2. 2 Neuman October 22, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Although I am unaware of any academic studies or focused inquiries on the topic, commonsense compels me to think that HBCU’s are no longer serving the purpose of their original intent. The HBCUs were established by whites and blacks to serve the separate black community. Historically, the advent of black colleges came during the period of segregation in this country. Therefore, I surmise they were purposed to create and bolster a growing black class of professionals to serve and benefit from the black community. However, the period of segration in this country has ended. But have HBCUs reenvisioned themselves to serve a new purpose? Is it realistic to expect Howard to compete across the board with Harvard? How many students who get into both choose Howard? Probably very few, if any. Like so much in public black life, the HBCUs seem anymore to serve as symbols or icons. I am curious to learn what percentage of freshman enrolled in the “best” HBCUs are legacy enrollees. I am also curious to learn what percentage of freshman enrollees at the rest of the HBCUs are first generation collegians. I am curious because the numbers may support the position that most people who attend HBCUs presently are doing so in large part because their parents went there and grew up knowing where they would go, or are first generation college students and were steered toward an HBCU for any number of reasons. I often wonder why more black athletes, who dominate collegiate football, basketball, and track/field teams, do not attend HBCUs. In another world, it would seem that schools like Morehouse, Howard, or Hampton would win the NCAA every year in football and basketball. However, it’s schools like Duke or UNC or Oklahoma or LSU. I am of the mind that blacks’ intellectual prowess is at least equal to our well-known and well-exploited athlectic abilities. And I wonder if our intellectuals are going to Harvard over Howard for the same reasons.

    The HBCU question shares the fundamental quality with many tough questions facing middle-class black America: should we build internal resources or give over to the idea that there is but one America? It seems to me that failing to make that choice—one way or the other leaves us in this current perpetual limbo.

  3. 3 Mike October 22, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Yes, at the heart of this topic is whether we should be focused on building our own separate resources or strengthening ourselves to participate in the larger society. You make a good point about whether the best HBCUs can compete with the best non-HBCUs in terms of institutions students choose to attend. I don’t know the numbers, but I bet the top non-HBCUs win hands down in that regard. However, in terms of who produces more black professionals, HBCUs win by a long shot. This fact challenges the notion of them being irrelevant.
    P.S I will try to find the answer to the legacy question you are curious about.

  4. 4 Neuman October 22, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    The following is part of my response on An Idea, and touches upon your assertion that HBCUs produce more black professionals. Is that a tactic they teach in freshman seminar at Morehouse? Darnel hit me in the head with the same thing.

    It’s a simple fact that more blacks attend white schools than black schools. If more blacks graduate from black schools to enter professional fields, then only one of two things can logically follow: (1) although blacks are enrolling at white schools in larger numbers, they are not graduating or (2) blacks graduating from white schools are not entering the professions you list. As I explain on Mike’s blog, I think HBCUs were created for a particular purpose for a particular time. Far too few of them have adapted to account for integration. Tuskeegee was founded for the express purpose of training carpenters and Alabama A&M for training black farmers. Those aims were laudable and plausible in context, but are those goals still relevant? If not, shouldn’t more black schools aim to reenvision their destiny? I think it is more than coincidence that the “best” HBCUs are traditional liberal arts colleges. The aim there was to provide a classic liberal arts education, which is never outdated. However, most HBCUs were not created in the liberal arts model. Therefore, I assert that HBCUs that have outlived their and did not adapt to a modern purpose have failed and are antiquated.

    To use an analogy, imagine a city on another planet segregated by hair color. If one has black hair, he goes to the black shop. If one has blue hair, he goes to the blue shop. The city passes an ordinance integrating barbershops, among other places of business. Because blue hair was considered inferior to black hair, most blue-hair creatures start to frequent the black-hair shops. Several blue-hair shops, consequently go out of business. However, several also remain that were top quality shops irrespective of clientele. Notwithstanding the fact that most blue-hair shops were no longer needed, a few had sufficient clientele to keep eeking along. What do you propose we do with the blue-hair shops that are straggling? Do we keep them around for posterity? Do we invest in them heavily to get them to a high level? Do we encourage their clientele to get a better cut at either the better blue-hair shops or maybe even a black-hair shop? If you have blue hair, where do your kids get cut?

  5. 5 Darnel October 23, 2007 at 8:11 am

    As an overall assumption, HBCUs do not give students a false sense of reality. I am only speaking from my own experience. Granted, I started as an minority at a predemoninately white day school and Morehouse may have balanced me out a bit. At no time was I nor any of my Morehouse brothers (that I hung out with) under the delusion that the entire world was black or that we would not have to deal with other types of people in the “real” world. The contrary, was true. In fact, some majors had classes that taught how to deal with “others” and succeed in their worlds. I contend that part of the reason that so many of the “success” stories that you mentioned in an earlier post come from HBCUs are because these people had to compete with and against many of the best and brightest students that looked like themselves. Besides my brothers from MFS and a couple of their boys, I had never seen fellas that I considered on my intellectual level until I got to Morehouse and there were hundreds of them. I came away feeling that if I could compete with these cats, I could compete with anybody. This confidence led to a cake walk at Georgia Tech which was a higher ranked institution of greater esteem.

    I am very passionate about my Morehouse experience and I understand that all HBCUs are not equal. There is a place for HBCUs in our community. In fact, these HBCUs are majorly responsible for the success of the black middle and upper classes in the US. I just want to make sure that your children have Morehouse College and other HBCUs as an viable options for their undergraduate experience.

  6. 6 Darnel October 23, 2007 at 8:15 am

    Failed idea? Antiquated notion? Please explain this premise.

    This quote is take direct from the UNCF site:

    ‘”HBCUs graduate far more than their share of African American professionals. While the 105 HBCUs represent just 3% of the nation’s institutions of higher learning, they graduate nearly one-quarter of African Americans who earn undergraduate degrees. Put another way, HBCUs graduate 75% more of their African American students than other schools do.”

    Please take the time to peruse this site:

    I will highlight a few statistics from this site that may challenge your “failed idea or an antiquated notion” hypothesis.

    Over half of all African American professionals are graduates of HBCUs.

    Nine of the top ten colleges that graduate the most African Americans who go on to earn Ph.D.s are HBCUs.

    More than 50% of the nation’s African American public school teachers and 70% of African American dentists earned degrees at HBCUs.

    Spelman College and Bennett College produce over half of the nation’s African American female doctorates in all science fields.

    Xavier University is #1 nationally in placing African-Americans into medical school.

    Seven of the top eight producers of African-American baccalaureates overall were HBCUs, including #1 Florida A&M University and #2 Howard University.

    Sixteen of the top 21 producers of African American baccalaureates in biological and biomedical sciences were HBCUs, including the entire top six (Xavier University of LA (#1), Hampton University (#2), Howard University (#3), Morgan State University (#4), Jackson State University (#5) and Tennessee State University (#6).

    Six of the top ten producers of African American baccalaureates in education were HBCUs, including #1 Alabama State University.

    Seven of the top eleven producers of African American baccalaureates in engineering were HBCUs, including #1 North Carolina A&T State University.

    The top three producers of African American baccalaureates in health professions (#1 Southern University and A&M College, #2 Florida A&M University and #3 Howard University) were HBCUs.

    Eight of the top nine producers of African American baccalaureates in mathematics and statistics were HBCUs: #1 Morehouse College, #2 South Carolina State University #3 Alabama State University, #3 Spelman College, #5Southern University and A&M College, #6 Tennessee StateUnversity, #7 Hampton University and #9 Howard University.

    The twelve top producers of African American baccalaureates in the physical sciences, including #1 Xavier University of Louisiana, were all HBCUs.

    Three of the top five producers of African American baccalaureates in psychology were HBCUs: #1 Florida A&M University, #3 Hampton University and #5 Howard University.

    HBCUs are producing more doctors and engineers because they are producing more black baccalauretes but I believe there are more black students at other institutions. Why are HBCUs so successful at producing these professionals in such large numbers and why haven’t large public and private majority institutions had the same “luck”? By the way, these engineers, doctors, and other professionals are not just succesful in black neighborhoods, dealing with black people all of the time, and championing black issues only. Please view the prominent alum of HBCUs on the site referenced above. I guess they overcame their unrealistic views of the world.

  7. 7 Darnel October 23, 2007 at 8:19 am


    I think that I am misunderstanding part of your position. Are you implying that we should close (or allow to close) HBCUs infavor of letting majority institutions fulfill the needs of some of these black students and give these majority institutions those resources so that they can provide the necessary support to those students? Why can we not just support our own students at our own institution? While I believe that there should be some consolidation amongst HBCUs, let us not forget that they only make of 3% of the colleges and universtites in the first place. To be truthful, some of the students in college at some of the HBCUs would be gracing the jail/prison doorsteps if not for the opportunities presented by some of the HBCUs. Just ask Nathan McCall.

    You are right. Some students would thrive at other institutions with the proper support in place. Some would not. HBCUs are not for everyone and neither are other institutions. To take my message in another direction. I just read an old newpaper article entitled “Little Asia” in which it spoke to Berkeley being overwhelming asian after the State of California got rid of affirmative action in their college admission processes. They just look at the numbers: SAT scores and GPAs. The asian “took” admission spots from everybody. My response to this? So be it. If we are going to make admissions at state institutions be based on academic numbers, then let the highest scorers win. Has this diversified their campus? Not really. It just added more asians. I am okay with that.

    I am not okay with inflated grades, nepotism, legacy admissions, disgust that they now have to compete with top students from public schools to get into elite institutions of higher learning. Many elite colleges and universities had and still have affirmative action. It was called: St. Paul’s, Andover, Exeter, Taft, Choate, Hotchkiss, The Hill School, Lawrencevile, and many other names. I like what Cali has done because they have leveled the admission playing field, set specific rules and (for the most part) held themselves to those rules.

    While I love this country and its ideals I know this to be true and I quote the great southern negro philosphers, Andre’ Three Stacks and Antwan Patton.

    “Old school players to new school fools
    ‘Kast keep it jumpin like kangaroos
    but skew it on the bar-b we ain’t tryin to lose
    Say ‘I be got damnit they done changed the rules'”

    Let us support our own institutions as well.


  8. 8 Mike October 23, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    No, I do not think that we should close HBCUs. I loved my HBCU experience. It seems to me that HBCUs should be a viable option for us–I just doubt they are *necessary* for our success. Although, as I noted in my response to Neuman, the numbers do put this notion in question.

    As for your comment about schools such as Berkeley resulting in less diversity as a function of making testing a primary admission criterion and that being just fine, I disagree for a few reasons. First, test scores are a narrow way of deciding who to accept and second (also related to the first), diversity in student body is an important aspect of higher ed (especially for a public school such as Berkeley). The University of California system has made serious moves to do away with the SAT for some of these reasons.

  9. 9 Darnel October 23, 2007 at 6:29 pm


    Thanks for the reply. Tuskegee ’s main foci are now engineering and veterinarian sciences. Alabama A&M still focuses on agriculture but also produces plenty of educators and engineers. Florida A&M and North Carolina A&T were initially design to train farmers as well, yet they now (have been for a while) been the major source of black engineers. It seems that some of the HBCUs have adapted to the times pretty well. This does not seem like failure to me.

    “But what about the Cheyneys and Norfolk States of the world”…I also think that these schools have a specific purpose. People, in general, do better in life if they go to college (even better when they graduate). If some schools are options of underperforming blacks whose parents demand that they go to college somewhere and this is their only option, so be it. It is better to be in some college than none at all, particularly a school that may nurture that child’s unrealized excellence. By the way, Alcorn State is responsible for producing many of the black air traffic controllers in the US . Should all of these schools exist? I don’t know but most of them have a very valuable purpose. Trenton State (not The College of New Jersey), Glassboro State (not Rowan University) were once held in the same esteem by whites and blacks that you are viewing these HBCUs. These schools and schools like them were established for the same purposes, just for a different color of people. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst was and still is an agriculture school. These schools probably have/had some of the same issues. Yet, they had their purpose, focused on their strengths, realigned their goals, and survived and thrived. Many HBCUs are in the process of doing the same thing. Should they be killed before they realize that potential? I bet that if we give Prairie View A&M $100 million and change the name to the Neuman University of Texas, they would be at least okay.

    Some people just need cuts that only a blue hair shop can give. Many black have never been to The Hair Cuttery. You know why? You saw what they did to Scottie Pippen’s box and the rest of the Dream Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.


  10. 10 Darnel October 23, 2007 at 10:27 pm


    I am still confused. If HBCUs are not necessary for the success of blacks, then why do they produce most of the professionals? More blacks attend majority instituions, yet these institutions do not produce the same number of professionals. You, I, and many others may have been successful had we attended other types undergraduate institutions. The numbers should support this argument. They do not.

    To address Neuman’s assertions of majority institution superiority. How are we quantifying this superiority? SAT scores? GPAs? Diversity? Or because the best black students are choosing to go to these institutions? A few years ago, Florida A&M had more black National Merit Scholars than any other school. Why? Because their preseident, at the time, chose to actively recruit those students. He went to the top students homes like Dean Smith went to Michael Jordan’s abode.

    I chose Morehouse College (HBCU) over the University of Pennsylvania (Ivy League Institution). Why do the top athletes chose certain schools? I don’t know. But, I know that it is often a priority of that school (and coaches) to field the best teams. Do many students choose Howard over Harvard? Probably not, but those students don’t choose Rutgers, Syracuse, or even UNC Chapel Hill over Harvard either.

    Help me fellas. I must be missing something. What are the standards and why are we comparing Howard to Harvard ($400 million endowment vs $39 billion endowment). How could Howard compete across the board? How many institution can compete with Harvard across the board? I would guess 10-20 at most. HBCUs do better at educating blacks than schools with similar and greater endowments. What are the apples so that we can compare them?

    The numbers are clear…aren’t they?


    Much of the Ivy League population is made up of legacy admissions. Much of the HBCU population is first generation college attendees. Is this not a good thing for blacks and/or HBCUs?

  11. 11 Neuman October 24, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    I read a quote this morning in a magazine that may become my social/political slogan: “compromise is inevitable.” Although I generally believe that to be true concerning social/political issues, we stand very far apart on the HBCU issue, Darnel. I fear that your life-altering experience at your school has embedded a irrevocable sentimentality that hinders you from seeing the issue objectively. Consequently, you cast a warm-fuzzy blanket over all HBCUs and tout their marginal successes. Not that HBCUs do not still hold an important place in contemporary black culture, aside from the iconic status they hold that is married to the civil rights movement, for as you and Mike have pointed out elsewhere they continue to provide sustenance for the black middle class. However, I think our fundamental disagreement stems from what we envision the collective destiny of black people to be in this country and how we get there.

    I will concede your first point, which lauds the programs at several HBCUs. I simply rejoin that my entire position was offered with the caveat that there were notable exceptions to my general position. I do not now, nor have I ever, espoused the view that all HBCUs should be done away with. My biggest problem with your position is the incredible assertion that, in virtually every instance, going to college makes for a better life. That is simply absurd. For a long time now, I have wrestled with the question of whether higher education best functions with an agenda of knowledge for personal enrichment or knowledge for the purpose of acquiring marketable skills. Insofar as I have concluded that the latter is the inferior agenda, I disagree with your entire premise. Let’s focus on your example of Alcorn State, which you highlight produces most of the nation’s black air traffic controllers. While my instinct is to say big fucking deal and leave it at that, I will expound on my thesis.

    Ninety percent of the air traffic controllers in this country work for the federal government. The median salary for air traffic controllers in May 2004 was around $102,000. Air traffic controllers, depending on their tenure of service, receive thirteen to twenty-six days of paid vacation and thirteen sick days. Their health benefits are low, comprehensive, and accorded to all immediate family members in full. In short, it is a good government job. But, in my view, when the best thing you can say about a college or university is that it produces a large number of potential government employees, I am compelled to question the institutional health of the school. Although I have concded the point, I pause to note that the other schools producing the vaunted teachers and engineers and farmers and doctors and lawyers serve an eerily similar function, the difference being only that these professinoals’ salaries are paid out of a private back account and the air traffic controllers draw their checks from the federal treasury.

    My point is not to impugn HBCUs. Rather, at bottom, I intend to challenge the notion that the majority of the population many HBCUs serve are adding to the direction of black people in modern times. It seems anathema to blackness to think beyond a six figure salary, a big mortgage, a foreign car, and regular vacations. I grew up thinking that a good job was something that paid the bills and kept paying them when I got sick. The black middle class is swollen with complacency. Too few dare to propel beyond the notions of success inherited from our parents’ generation. HBCUs, in my view, are a lab for producing more black middle-classness. It is less a failure of the school itself than the mindset of its students, alumni, and benefactors.

    One thing I have learned from white people is that the limits on life are not what my parents taught me. That notion of higher limits is a product of not being humiliated by slavery, not being teased by reconstruction, not being victimized by Jim Crow, and not being duped by the civil rights movement and its aftermath. To the extent that any school educates my people in the notion that middle class is not a life achievement, then I applaud them. But even your venerable Morehouse, without the life perspective you gained from MFS, I assert would have left you proud, confident, and middle class.

  12. 12 Darnel October 25, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    If I concede that HBCUs are factories that produce middle class blacks (engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc.), the simple response is okay…what is wrong with that? HBCUs are doing more to replenish, build, and grow the necessary middle black middle class than white institutions. Furthermore, many white institutions do the same for their own. I know that we are not comparing our institutions to white institutions to point out our or their mediocrity. I think that this notion is why Neuman compared Howard to Harvard (on an earlier post) even though the comparison is unfair on many levels.

    Neuman explained that his issue is with the whole middle class conversation and that HBCUs seem content to build this class for blacks. I disagree that HBCUs only do that. Is a major part of their purpose to build the black middle class? Yes. The more important question is what should their purposes be and where are the institutions that model these purposes? Martin Luther King, Jr. studied Ghandi to learn passive resistance for the civil rights movement and Georgia Tech looked to MIT and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute to build their ideal engineering school. To whom should HBCUs look? Spelman and Morehouse push many of their students to obtain graduate degrees as does Xavier and many of the other HBCUs. Many focus on feeding the black middle class. What is the harm in all of this? We need all kinds.

    Did MFS give me a world view and a different lens to look at the world through? Yes. So did Morehouse. Neither made me aspire beyond middle class. Growing up in Camden with the legacy of an entrepreneurial grandfather may have done that. I initially became a teacher because I wanted all black kids to have the same access to the education that I received at MFS. I can never be middle class in terms of mindset because I just don’t think that way…big house, European car, and a couple of yearly vacations. Nothing is wrong with wanting that. I am reminded of a scene form School Daze where Dap had this same conversation with his boys and one of the Da Fellas asked what is wrong with aspiring to a good job. I try not to stand in judgment of people who want that. It is not the end all to be all, but it is necessary.

    I agree with your statement that “the black middle class is swollen with complacency and too few dare to propel beyond the notions of success inherited from our parents’ generation.” I will also concede that many HBCUs are labs for producing more black middle class participants. What are the majority institutions doing? HBCUs are doing and have done more that just produced middle class blacks. Every major movement in the black community was born from an HBCU and the alumni are doing big things in every arena. What are you really saying about blacks, HBCUs, whites, the middle class?
    How do you suggest we get to where we need to be (without the HBCUs)?

    While speaking on class, I will challenge that you have not learned from “white people” but form “upper class white people.” They don’t feel the limits on life that many blacks feel. Neither do many upper class blacks. What about us?

  13. 13 Neuman October 26, 2007 at 10:13 am

    If you can only envision this conversation as pitting the virtues and benefits of HBCUs against the virtues and benefits of majority institutions, then our discourse will only serve to frustrate and disturb one another. I expressed on the telephone that I may not have been clear in expressing my basic argument concerning HBCUs and understood your confusion, however, I reread my post and learned that I was not as unclear as I thought. My basic thesis was and remains as follows: I challenge the notion that the majority of the poplulation that HBCUs serve are adding value to the quest to move beyond the status quo. My position is complicated by the fact that I am using the terms “HBCUs” and “middle class” as proxies for larger populations. Specifically, I offer them as proxies for conventional thought and the institutions that serve and perpetuate these notions.

    If you are content that conversations among blacks take the traditional course and trust that conventional thought are sufficient, then we disagree fundamentally. I am fine with that. Moreover, my notion of “middle class” is not expressed as a class issue, per se. Rather, as I have stated, that concept is a proxy for classic, black mantras that have gone unchecked for generations.

    Since my exposition has been so unsuccessful in revealing my position, I will borrow from someone else. I heard an interview with Professor Lacewell at Princeton, a young black woman, who writes and teaches on race, religion, and politics. She characterized the traditional problems facing blacks as nails. She further described the civil rights movement and concepts, traditions, and expectations that addressed these traditional problems as hammers. In short, hammers work well on nails. However, she further described the contemporary problems facing black America as screws. As we all know, hammers do not work well on screws. I simply assert that many HBCUs are hammers. And to continually direct my attention to Harvard or GT or MIT or Trenton State is to introduce saws to the conversation.

  14. 14 Mike October 26, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    So if HBCUs are unsuccesful in addressing the “contemporary problem” of not moving beyond the status quo, what do you envison as the solution?

  15. 15 Darnel October 26, 2007 at 12:27 pm


    Well put. I am finally beginning to see what you are saying. I really liked the nail, screw and saw analogy. You know how much I loved woodshop at MFS. I agree that our (blacks) issues are screws and the necessary tools for scews include but are not limited to screwdrivers. I am neither content with te same old conversation nor the many movements that direct our race. Protesting outside of a courthouse is a hammer (at times) for a screwy legal issue (no pun intended). Having enough money to purchase the proper representation can be a screwdriver. Having the political clout to appoint fair judges is a power drill. I think that I understand you now.

    My question is still…are there any tool shops or hardware stores to purchase the necessary equipment? If so, where are they and what are the directions to get there? If not, how do you proposed will build the Lowe’s and Home Depot’s that we need. At this point, I would even be satisfied with an Ace Hardware store. Can we model our business plan after other successful businesses?

    I think that HBCUs serve as old school Mom and Pop hardware stores that may not have exactly what you need to do the job int he most effecient manner but they have a tool or tools that will assist you in getting the job done. I am suggesting that these institutions consolidate in some instances so that we may broaden our inventory and offerings. I also contend that many HBCUs have taken this step and many others to do just that. We need to do more.


  16. 16 Dwayne December 23, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    This was outstanding reading. The content was excellent and well written. I could not stop reading it. I attended an HBCU and am considering sending my son to Morgan. To answer a previously presented question, he will be a legacy. In fact he will be the 9th person when you combine my wife’s side of the family to attend. I would say that of the 8 to graduate 4 are in the upper middle class range with incomes extending well beyond six figures. Still we are, at least I am striving to do more and be more everyday. I work in a highly competitive biotech environment and my liberal arts education has served me very well. I was a very poor high school student who had no desire to attend college. However, I ran track and this lead me to college.

    After a year of college prep, I produce excellent grades ( Deans List). I love the experience. They pushed me and made me grow.I would not change a thing.

    Back to my son. His educational experience did not provide much interaction with African American kids nor has he had the pleaseure of being taught by an AA instructor. I am sure he as his realtives before him have done, will attend a conventional graduate school. However, His needs at this stage of life are different. He needs a course correction that will provide him with a great deal of balance.

    Thanks again to you both ( Darnel and Neuman). It is clear thet you both have a great deal of repsect for each other and only want the best. This is one of the more entertaining and at times intellegent debates I have read.


  17. 17 Mike December 23, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    You made my day with your compliment about this being one of the most entertaining, intelligent, and respectful debates you have read. Those are exactly the qualities of discussion I had hoped for here when I started the blog. The debate between Darnel and Neuman definitely lived up to that. They both had very different and compelling perspectives and you can tell they enjoyed pushing against each other’s position, but while showing complete respect in the process. As you said, it is clear that they only want the best. I’m so glad that you got something out of this.

    Regarding your son, I wish him all the best whether he attends Morgan or another school. As you undoubtedly know, the HBCU experience is a very unique one. I hope he is able to take advantage of all of its strengths should he attend an HBCU.

  18. 18 Louise March 18, 2008 at 5:22 pm


    I too enjoyed the analogy of the nails, hammer, and screws (and Darnel’s introduction of saws). I also agree with Dwayne that this is indeed outstanding reading.

    I am not a graduate of an HBCU. However, my most rewarding college experience was at an HBCU one summer. I have spent the majority of my professional career at a variety of HBCUs and I am madly in love with all that they are, all that they have been and all that they will be.

    In the tool analogy, HBCUs may be the downtown tool stores laden with plows and wash tubs on the walls. And other institutions may be like Lowe’s. And we ask ourselves shouldn’t those small tool stores close down in light of the bigger, better, brighter mega stores? My answer to you would be certainly not. Those small mom and pop stores in our dying town centers remind us of the possibilities that are within our community.

    To address the screws, these small stores not only have flat heads and phillips head screw drivers. They also have people who know how and when to use each one. They may also have some other tools that we no longer use that can function just as well with the screws. And if you go in the back room they are connected to the Internet that can get you any of the tools that the mega stores can get.

    Now that I have run the tool analogy into the ground, I believe in the necessity of each and every HBCU in this country. We forget that all categories of institutions are struggling with similar and unique issues. There are monetary resources in terms of endowment and then there are other kinds of resources that characterize the worth of an institution. There are other, vital to life, resources that we have learned to disrespect in the west. The spirit that resides at HBCUs can be captured in no other venue in any other country in the world.

    On a practical note, my husband graduated (two degrees) from an HBCU. Our son graduated from an HBCU, was hired in his field (architectural design) in one of the largest companies in the state, and purchased a home all before he was 25 years old. My daughter will graduate from an HBCU in May with a degree in Computer Engineering and minor in Japanese. She is fluent in two languages, and interned at one of the largest aerospace companies in the country. Both of these young people have been offered benefits packages that are close to what their father and I make and we have six degrees between us. Additionally, all of our nieces and nephews who are enrolled in college are enrolled at HBCUs. These young people are fourth and fifth generation college students in our families and they had options. HBCUs were their colleges of first choice. They are having equally successful college careers.

    I submit to you that the measure of their success is not in their salaries and potential salaries, credit worthiness, or the cars that they don’t have (most of them drive second hand cars from their parents). Their success is in who they are and what they are doing to impact humanity in the world, not just in the United States. Their access to resources provides them with options after college. Like there are options of small liberal arts colleges, large sports driven colleges, and religious affiliated colleges; so too should there be Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Options are good.

  19. 19 Mini October 1, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Hello All,
    This has been an outstanding discussion. I enjoyed reading all the posts. Many HBCUs at the bottom of the barrel signify the “ghettoization” of higher education in the US. The open enrollment policy allows students even with GPAs as low as 2.0 to attend college, the low levels of student academic achievement promotes the dumbing down of all educational material, many of the faculty are not qualified to teach their disciplines and some have doctorates from highly questionable institutions. The buildings where classes are held remind me of third world conditions with broken windows, leaky, dysfunctional bathrooms and classrooms that often suffer from lack of chalk! Are these HBCUs doing a service or harm to students that graduate from here, since few students go to graduate or professional school but end up as waiters and car wash mechanics? A college education from HBCUs such as these only perpetuates the ghetto mentality, how can we get students to the next level? Yes, I agree that if it had not been for these HBCUs, many of the students would be either on the streets or in prison, but then should we call these HBCUs academic institutions or social service organizations? We are comparing apples to oranges when we talk of all HBCUs in one breath….clearly some are holding pens for keeping youth out of trouble and others are academic institutions.

  20. 20 Velma J. Taylor October 29, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Historical Black Colleges is a must for African Americans and they do serve a purpose. Statistically, African Americans are not being accepted in white universities in large numbers.
    Despite, the lack of funding these schools are still turning out high achievers and successful individuals.

    White Universities do not provide everything that students of color need to achieve. African American and Latinos are allowed in but they have to fit in and conform. These students are not graduating at the top of the class.

    African American colleges and universities are still being viewed from a deficit perspective and that is sad. Has America really gone beyond this perspective…NO! Some African Americans still hold on to this perspective as well, especially those who are or never to one or who have been schooled to believe that education from Black Institutions is inferior.

    Black Institutions offer highly competent and viable educational programs that are equal or excel white institutions, despite the inadequate funding. The question should be: “Is the White Man’s Ice Always Colder?

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