HBCUs Are Still Relevant Today

Nearly 159 years after the first HBCU was chartered, Michael Lomax, a contributing editor at The Root and president and CEO of the United Negro College, reflects on the value of the institutions in a piece at CNN.

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President Obama signs HBCU order, hugs Howard University Student Association president in 2010. (Win McNamee/Getty Images News)

Writing at CNN, Michael Lomax, a contributing editor at The Root and president and CEO of the United Negro College, reflects on the value of HBCUs nearly 159 years after the first institution was chartered.

(CNN) - More than 35,000 students will graduate from college this year because of something that happened 159 years ago Monday.

It was on this day in 1854 that Ashmun Institute, the first college established solely for African-American students, was officially chartered.

Twelve years later, Ashmun was renamed as Pennsylvania's Lincoln University and became the nation's first degree-granting institution for African-Americans, or what we now know as a historically black college and university.

Where Lincoln led, others followed, and there are now 105 historically black colleges and universities, enrolling more than 370,000 students and awarding 20% of all undergraduate degrees earned by African-Americans.

"A mind is a terrible thing to waste," the almost universally recognized motto of  UNCF, the United Negro College Fund, has come to represent the aspirations of all historically black colleges and universities to ensure that all Americans can earn the college degrees they need and the 21st century economy demands.

Read Michael Lomax's entire piece at CNN.

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