Saving Our HBCUs From Financial Ruin

Dr. Robert Jennings, president of Lincoln University, writes in Diverse Education that despite recent overall gains in the U.S. economy, too many HBCUs and their students are flailing financially.

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In the last several years, in the wake of the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has reinvented itself. Still, some sectors -- including HBCUs -- aren't quite back on their feet. Lincoln University President Dr. Robert Jennings writes in Diverse Education that a shortage of funds is causing too many students to drop out.

While these institutions only represent 2 percent of all American colleges and universities, they enroll about 12 percent of all Black college students and produce 25 percent of all Black college graduates. Data also shows that HBCUs confer about 41 percent of all degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- disciplines where America is losing its edge the fastest. Additionally, about 38 percent of all Black healthcare professionals are graduates of HBCUs.

Yet, as a group, these institutions have never had the resources that other institutions of a similar size and stature have amassed. And with the reported end of the national recession in June 2009, the residual effects are posing a devastating toll on HBCUs, especially those with enrollments under 2,500 students. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the unofficial start and end of a national recession in the United States is defined by "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real gross domestic product (GDP), real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales."

Judith Warner, author of We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication, points out that "economists may assert that we're in the early stages of a recovery, but surveys continue to show that the impact of the Great Recession on American families is deep, widespread and grim." Most of us at HBCUs strongly agree.

Read Dr. Robert Jennings' entire piece at Diverse Education.

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