HBCUs must adapt to teach 21st century students

Freddie Allen | 10/7/2013, 8:57 a.m.
As Historically Black Colleges and Universities adapt to the rapidly changing educational landscape, advocates say that collaborative partnerships in business, ...
George E. Cooper, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities says that HBCUs must engage federal agencies. Freddie Allen

The Middle College at North Carolina A&T is an all-male high school on campus and recently made history achieving a 100 percent graduation rate during the 2011-2012 school year.

Last year, North Carolina A&T opened the STEM Early College.

According to the school’s web page, “Students take honors and Advanced Placement courses in ninth and 10th grades. Juniors and seniors will take college courses and focus on one of three STEM pathways: biomedical sciences, renewable energy and engineering. Students will graduate with a high school diploma and two years of college credit from N.C. A&T.”

Harvey said that some of their students have already been recognized in the region for achievements in research projects.

Harvey also stressed the need for Black schools to be more proactive in recruiting top-flight students.

“We have to be much more thoughtful and much more intentional,” Harvey said. “We are providing a value proposition to those students and their parents that your son or daughter is going to get something special here that he can’t get at Duke or [the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill] or Wake Forest.”

Harvey continued: “The flipside of that is that we know that we’re doing more with less. I want to do more with more.”

Harvey encouraged HBCU alumni to think globally and to act locally to find ways to give a percentage of their earnings to their alma maters similar to tithing at church.

When some participants at the conference lamented the lack of support that some young scholars receive from their HBCUs, Greg Carr associate professor of Africana Studies and chair of Afro-American Studies at Howard University, suggested a different approach.

“You have to ignore Negro leadership at Black schools first of all,” Carr said. “Don’t go looking for the grant first, do the work first and the rest will emerge.”

Carr said that students and faculty need to collaborate in and generate interdisciplinary spaces and take a bottom up approach to their academic and research endeavors.

“Then when you go to the administration, you don’t so much appeal for resources, but demonstrate what has happened,” Carr said. “That’s where we really have the lesson to learn.”

Carr added: “You don’t ask for permission.”

Changes in the federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students program sideline many Black students who heavily depend on financial aid to get to college and earn degrees. The changes, which place heavier emphasis on previous loan defaults and foreclosures, disproportionately affected Black families who were hit hard during the housing crisis and economic downturn.

Over the summer, the Department of Education added a loan reconsideration process for students and parents who were previously denied PLUS loans.

Toldson said that the loan reconsideration process, that usually takes less than 10 minutes, has been very successful, enabling students to obtain federal funds who were initially blocked from receiving PLUS loans for college.

“The issue now is not enough students are going through that process,” Toldson said. “It’s a new thing. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”