Navigating financial waters is only half the battle in keeping our nation’s HBCUs operating, In January, President Sidney Ribeau of Howard University will release his final academic-renewal plan, which proposes to trim its 171 programs, such as African Studies, Classics, and Philosophy. “Any serious university ought to have a philosophy department,” says Kwame Anthony Appiah, chairman of the American Philosophical Association. Appiah’s comment, though benign, is out of touch with HBCUs who are financially strapped and don’t have reserves to keep open under-enrolled departments like philosophy. Kwame Anthony Appiah taught at Princeton University, whose endowment was recently assessed at a little over $14 Billion. What’s interesting about this turn in direction of Howard University is that programs like Philosophy, Classics, and African Studies are what set Howard University a part from other HBCUs. The rationale behind the cut is more economical and less sentimental. The African Studies program yields but two degrees per year. On the economics alone, two degrees per year cannot justify hiring multiple professors to graduate only two students per year. The compromise, according to the Washington Post is expanding the African Studies graduate program. In order for institutions like Howard, Hampton, Spelman and Morehouse to remain competitive for the nation’s top black students they have to have state-of-the-art science labs, world renowned faculty, and well-funded programs. In case the administrators at Howard didn’t know: students who choose HBCUs over a Princeton or a Harvard do so for what an HBCU can offer than other schools cannot. If HBCUs were to become clones of Predominately White Institutions (PWI) by trimming some of its hallmark programs like African Studies or Philosophy what would be the point in still having HBCUs?
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