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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

George Cooper, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities said that the biggest challenge facing HBCUs is finding ways to engage federal agencies to support HBCU initiatives.

“I hope to look at innovative partnerships to build on the strengths of HBCUs,” said Cooper, who is the former president of South Carolina State University, in Orangeburg. According to Cooper, HBCUs need to learn how to brag about their unique talents and experiences. “If we form partnerships based on the strengths of our faculty and the strengths of our programs, then it allows us in a creative way to build centers of excellence.”

Some other challenges are fiscal, said Cooper. Falling enrollment, a shaky economic outlook, and accountability on campus are also challenges Cooper hopes to address as executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Education advocates critcized Obama and the Education Department for the changes in the PLUS loan program that have prevented thousands of Black students from returning to college in recent years, but Cooper said that it’s time for HBCU officials to work closely with the administration to improve conditions for Black college students and Black colleges.

“We can’t change history. What we have to do is move forward,” Cooper said. “As long as our views are heard and we’re involved in the policy decisions with the HBCU community, I think we’ll be fine.”