Addressing Sexual Violence at Historically Black Colleges and Universities


Elisa Chen


Fernando Coello

From allegations of rape at Columbia University to the most recent Facebook scandal at The Penn State University, postsecondary institutions across the nation are facing increased scrutiny for how they handle campus sexual violence. This problem has become so pervasive that President Barack Obama recently established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, formally recognizing the growing epidemic overtaking higher education. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are not immune. For instance, Lincoln University’s former President Robert Jennings came under fire last year for his comments at an all-women convocation that included students and staff.

Additional federal protections include Title IX and the Clery Act. Title IX prohibits sexual discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities. As stated in the legislation, sexual assault and sexual harassment are forms of sexual discrimination. The Clery Act mandates institutions participating in federal student financial aid programs to disclose campus crime statistics, such as reports of forcible and nonforcible sexual offenses. Most recently, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) added new reporting and procedural requirements to the Clery Act. For instance, institutions must provide students with reasonable academic accommodations and living arrangements after assaults, and guarantee transparency in university disciplinary hearings.

Despite these laws, research reveals that campus sexual violence continues to be a problem. In fact, an estimated 20% of women attending Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) are sexually assaulted every year. At HBCUs, the rate is lower: 14%. Some have attributed this discrepancy to the fact that there is less alcohol use at HBCUs and that HBCUs tend to have inclusive family style communities. Conversely, others have argued that the rates are lower at HBCUs because of underreporting. Although it is extremely hard to determine the exact reasons for this discrepancy, the data does raise questions regarding what is being done at HBCUs to prevent and account for campus sexual violence, especially because HBCUs generally have less financial resources than their PWI counterparts.

Key questions include:

  1. What are HBCUs doing to comply with federal regulations?
  2. How are HBCUs dealing with campus sexual violence? How are HBCUs gathering resources and funding to fight campus sexual violence?
  3. How do HBCUs differ from PWIs in their approaches?
  4. How does campus climate affect students’ perceptions of campus sexual violence?
  5. How are students attending HBCUs encouraged to develop healthy sexual relationships?

It is important to conduct research on HBCUs and sexual violence because, when HBCUs rely on data from PWIs, HBCUs may not get a clear picture of the problem as applied to their own campuses. Additionally, understanding how HBCUs are combating campus sexual violence can shed insight into programs that are working versus those that are not.

The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions is currently working on a report that examines the impacts of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office on Violence against Women (OVW) Campus Grant Program. The Center will select three HBCUs that have been awarded multi-year grants from this program as case studies. The research will analyze how the grants have been used to:

  1. Affect the number of incidents involving campus sexual violence
  2. Support student services
  3. Bolster training for university administrators and personnel
  4. Improve university relations with external organizations, like local law enforcement and victim advocacy organizations
  5. Influence student behavior and their understanding of campus sexual violence

Ultimately, the Center hopes the research will reveal important implications for HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions with constricted financial resources looking to optimize external support in addressing campus sexual violence.

Elisa Chen and Fernando Coello are M.S.Ed. candidates in Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and research assistants at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Between College Access and Outcomes: Considering Institutional Effort and Student Experiences in Outcomes Based Funding

Jones Photo

Tiffany Jones

Outcomes Based Funding

Over the last decade, higher education has become more entrenched in a movement that holds colleges and universities more accountable to its supporters. Similar to K12 accountability, there are pressures to answer questions about student outcomes and performance, the value of education, the effectiveness of instructors, and the ability of existing leaders to manage efficiently and effectively. It is within this climate that states have adopted Performance or Outcomes Based Funding (OBF) policies. Through OBF, public colleges and universities receive state funding through formulas that no longer rely solely on student enrollment, but are instead based on student outcomes. This means, lower student outcomes, like graduation rates, results in less funding for the college or university. So far, over half of all states have adopted a funding formula that takes student outcomes and institutional performance into account.

In some cases, OBF has resulted in stagnant or lower completion rates, and increased certificates rather than degree attainment to reach completion goals at community colleges. These findings have been met with controversy as some have called into question the lack of consideration of how diverse the policies are in each state. For example, HCM Strategists reports that only three states base more than 5% of their funds on student outcomes and the student outcome metrics vary, thus it is unfair to characterize the policies collectively as having a negative, or no impact on student outcomes. Further, it is also necessary to consider what OBF policies mean for students of color, low income students, and colleges and universities largely that primarily serve these student populations, such as Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs).

Institutional Effort & MSIs

One cannot fully understand the impact of, and responses to OBF at MSIs without first considering the historical relationship between the state and the campus. In the case of South Carolina State University, the state legislature described a 2015 decision to close a public HBCU for two years as based on financial difficulties; however, this decision is colored by a history that includes the lack of land grant matching, permitting academic program duplication at neighboring Predominately White Institutions, and underfunding. The aim is not to use historical context as an excuse for what some characterize as poor outcomes; however, threatening an institution’s base funding as a means to spur innovation and improvement assumes that campuses have the resources they need to operate more effectively, but lack the incentives to do so. Thus, low resourced institutions, including many MSIs and their advocates, have challenged this assumption and the merits of any higher education accountability and rankings system, to accurately rate the performance of these institutions.

Rewarding Equitable College Experiences

Many OBF and other higher education accountability systems include equity related measures that credit institutions that create college access for underserved groups like, low income students and students of color. However a critical piece missing from the equity measures is what actually happens in regards to race and equity, during the college experience. Many would suggest that providing a healthy campus racial climate for students of color is key to this population’s long term success, and may be what MSIs do well, and some otherwise seemingly successful non-MSIs don’t do as well. Without moving beyond the enrollment of students of color to include measures of campus climate, institutional racism, and the experiences of students of color, it is difficult to determine which campuses are doing well and how to reward them.


States are actually well positioned to influence campuses because of how dependent public MSIs are on state funding. Over one-third of funding is based on state and local appropriations at four-year MSIs, only 17% for non-MSIs. The question is how can states leverage their influence to support MSI effectiveness? Also, if the funding formulas result in the same “winners” and “losers” in regards to who gets what funding, then do the policies have the ability to inspire change and innovation at any college or university? Even when agreeing that we should increase institutional effectiveness and improve student outcomes, it will be difficult to secure buy-in for OBF at MSIs if the metrics are not inclusive of the benefits and strengths of MSIs. Many institutions will respond to OBF policies because they can’t afford to ignore the even five percent of funding. Consequently, I challenge policy makers, higher education scholars, and practitioners to engage in a discussion about how to design incentives that reward institutions for cultivating college access, outcomes, and supportive college experiences for students of color.

Tiffany Jones is the Program Director for Higher Education Research and Policy at the Southern Education Foundation (SEF).



What we should talk about when we talk about HSIs


Anne-Marie Nuñez

Over the past two decades, as the Latino population has grown, several higher education institutions have become Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). In fact, according to the most recent analysis by Excelencia in Education, the number of HSIs between 1994 and 2013-14 more than doubled from 189 to 409 institutions. HSIs, therefore, are the largest and fast-growing kind of Minority-Serving Institutions (MSI). Unlike some other MSIs (HBCUs and TCUs in particular), HSIs were not designated with a mission to serve Hispanic students specifically. Rather, they were designated on the basis of enrollment – non-profit, degree-granting institutions with 25% or more full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment of undergraduate Hispanic students.

As a faculty member in an HSI who also conducts research on these institutions, I often hear three assumptions about HSIs: (1) HSIs are monolithic, (2) HSIs either ignore their HSI status or do a lot to serve their Hispanic students (that is, these institutions are “Hispanic-enrolling” or “Hispanic-serving”), and (3) HSIs are underperforming institutions when it comes to traditional metrics like graduation rates. Sylvia Hurtado, Emily Calderon Galdeano, and I have co-edited a newly released volume entitled Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Advancing Research and Transformative Practice. The research in the volume and other important emerging research offer a broader context within which to explore these assumptions.

First, HSIs are not monolithic and are in fact characterized by significant institutional diversity. They include two- and four-year private and public institutions, all of which are not-for-profit organizations, as well as many (about three in ten) in Puerto Rico. Gloria Crisp, Diane Elizondo, and I have also developed a typology of HSIs to better understand the range of HSIs. Using cluster analysis, we have identified six types of HSIs, each with distinctive characteristics from other types of HSIs: urban enclave community colleges, rural dispersed community colleges, big systems four-year institutions, small communities four-year institutions, Puerto Rican institutions, and health sciences institutions. Furthermore, as Awilda Rodriguez and Emily Calderon Galdeano have found, it is difficult to find several non-HSIs with comparable characteristics to HSIs, making many comparisons of outcomes at HSIs and non-HSIs inappropriate. This emerging research helps us characterize HSIs as a set of distinctive institutions in empirically grounded scholarship.

Second, because HSIs were not designated on the basis of institutional mission, often do not publicize their status in easily accessible forms like web page portals, and often have lower graduation rates for Latinos than other institutions, a common narrative about these institutions is that they either are doing nothing to support Hispanic students (merely “Hispanic-enrolling”) or that they do a lot to support these students (“Hispanic-serving”). My experiences as a faculty member in and researcher about these institutions suggest that constructing such a dichotomy oversimplifies the reality of how HSIs contribute to educating Latino students. New qualitative research, and a recent blog post on this site by Gina Garcia, confirms this assertion by suggesting that stakeholders may enact an organizational identity that is oriented toward supporting Hispanic students, even if that identity is not articulated in symbolic terms like mission statements. That is, faculty and staff in HSIs can behave in ways that serve Hispanic students, even if they do not represent their organizations as serving Hispanic students to entities outside of the university.

Third, although it is commonly assumed that HSIs are underperforming institutions because of their relatively low graduation rates, emerging research using rigorous quantitative approaches suggests that, in fact, it is pre-college factors, as well as HSIs’ limited institutional resources, that primarily explain HSIs’ low graduation rates. Prior research on this blog by Stella Flores and Toby Park indicates that, for HSIs in Texas, K-12 academic preparation before college entry accounts for the majority of differences in college graduation rates between HSIs and non-HSIs. Other national research by Awilda Rodriguez and Emily Calderon Galdeano in my recently published co-edited book also suggests that taking into account HSIs’ comparatively limited institutional resources (HSIs spend far less per student than non-HSIs), as well as their student characteristics, helps further explain the differences in graduation rates between HSIs and non-HSIs. Research by Marcela Cuellar in this book also suggests that Latino students in HSIs experience greater gains in academic self-concept and community orientation than their counterparts at non-HSIs. Thus, when other metrics are considered, HSIs are contributing positively to educating Latinos in more ways than once thought.

HSIs are dynamic and changing organizations. To really understand what we talk about when we talk about HSIs, we should employ the emerging empirical evidence to build an informed sense about these institutions. To do otherwise could have devastating consequences for Latino students and families and HSIs.

Anne-Marie Nuñez is an associate professor in higher education at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and an affiliate of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Learning from successful practices: The premedical program at Xavier University in New Orleans


By Beatrice Bridglall

By the year 2060, the U.S. is likely to have a more diverse population, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau projections. Specifically, minorities — defined as all but the single-race, non-Hispanic, white population, currently 37% of the U.S. population — are projected to become 57% of the population by 2060. Looking at the projections a bit more carefully, we see that the total minority population is expected to increase to 241.3 million, which is more than double the current number of 116.2 million.

Notwithstanding this expected population shift, current increases in medical school enrollment for Black or African American, Hispanic/Latino/a and Native American students do not accurately reflect their respective population growth. That is, although African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos/as and Native Americans currently comprise 31.5 percent of the U.S. population, they comprise, in the aggregate, only 12.3 percent of the current physician workforce.

As we engage on many fronts to meet increased demand for physicians, let us consider the track record of Xavier University (XU) in New Orleans. What can we learn from XU, considered the only historically Black, Catholic institution of higher education in the United States, and which manages to prepare and place underrepresented students into medical schools across the country (including Harvard, Northwestern, Baylor, Emory, Meharry and Tulane)? What’s more, 93% of students graduate and become practicing physicians and dentists.

This question reveals the deeply integral nature and active implementation of several principles of learning in XU’s premedical program. That is, the program:

  • Structures knowledge around the major concepts and organizing principles of several disciplines, including biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics, making it a knowledge-centered environment
  • Structures and shapes student learning around particular tasks and activities, making it a learner-centered environment
  • Academically and socially supports students’ capacity to learn with understanding vis-à-vis learning communities at many levels, making it a community-centered environment

Taken together, this approach supports the faculty’s focus on exit criteria rather than entrance requirements. It also informs the premedical faculty and staff members’ perspective that “course content, teaching methodology, and the rate of presentation should be determined by the relevant department as a whole, not by individual lecturers or textbooks.”* Toward this end, faculty members in the departments of biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics, jointly adapted and standardized several foundational courses, including general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, general physics and pre-calculus/calculus I. Faculty emphasized that, in planning meetings with members from each department, they “decide the material covered, the rate at which it is presented, and even the algorithms students will use in solving problems. This material is integrated in the workbooks students receive, which contain learning goals and sample problems, for example.”* As a result, “all faculty are aware of the content in basic courses and where to begin upper-level courses.” This ensures that “the responsibility for providing support is shared by all faculty, including new and adjunct faculty.”*

This integrated curriculum not only removes redundancies, but also reinforces difficult concepts and promotes conceptual mastery vis-à-vis interdisciplinary course work. As an indication of faculty commitment and dedication, this effort, which began in the early 1970s, continues today. Interviews with Dr. J.W. Carmichael, director of XU’s premed program, and premedical faculty indicate that this considerable curriculum modification stemmed from students’ struggles to conceptually link their mathematical knowledge with scientific concepts in general chemistry. Faculty also found that students tended to view getting additional tutoring in this area as embarrassing, and consequently did not actively avail themselves of it and other supports. Faculty moved thus to deliberately integrate academic supports as part of the course. This strategy ensured that “students are neither pre-judged because of their background nor punished for poor performance.”*

Thus, the standardization of biology and chemistry courses “provides structure. It helps tremendously, because we have students with a wide variety of backgrounds, and it helps to get everyone up to speed in one year. We believe we need to be very explicit about what students have to do. We are correcting for years and years of poor education. Everyone goes to tutoring. There is no stigma attached to tutoring. Standardized courses really make a difference” (personal communication, J.W. Carmichael, July 2005 and January 2010).

* Quotes from interviews with premedical faculty and staff conducted July 2005 to January 2010

Parts of this article are excerpted with permission from “Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: Studies of three undergraduate programs in the US.” Bridglall, B.L. (2013) Lexington Books: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

Dr. Beatrice Bridglall is Faculty Affiliate at the Institute for Social Development at NYU Shanghai and Fulbright Specialist, Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES).

The Latino/a Educational Pipeline: Understanding the Condition of Latino/as in Higher Education

Polet Milian

Polet Milian

Natalie Gonzalez

Natalie Gonzalez

Latino/as are the fastest growing ethnic minority group in the United States, increasing from 13% to 17% of the population during the past 10 years. It is important to understand that, despite the milestones made in Latino/as success, they continue to be underserved in various areas of higher education.

The Condition of Latino/as in Education: 2015 Factbook’ released by Excelencia in Education, provides snapshots of the educational pipeline for Latino/as from primary through graduate education. The report seeks to spread awareness of Latino/as in education; explores the educational disadvantages that are faced within the Latino/a community; and emphasizes the significance in increasing Latino/a student success. Following are some of the Factbook’s main themes.

Different stakeholders have played roles in increasing access and completion for Latino/a students, particularly at Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). In 2012-2013, HSIs enrolled 59% of Latino/a undergraduates, and with 277 emerging HSIs, this participation is expected to increase. Note that 52% of HSIs in 2012 were community colleges and private, two-year, not-for-profit institutions.

Enrolling at a two-year-institution is not irregular, as 45% of all undergraduate students were enrolled in public two-year colleges in 2012 (American Association of Community Colleges, 2014). But a higher amount, over two-thirds of all Latino/as, were enrolled at two-year HSIs alone. In 2012, only 7% of all graduate students were Hispanic, and 5% of doctoral degrees were conferred and awarded to Latino/as students.

This participation correlates with data showing that, over the course of the past decade, more Latinos earned an associate’s degree as their highest degree compared to a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, with minimal research on the history of Latino/as in higher education, it is difficult to identify ways to increase participation in education.

Latino/as continue to fall behind in critical areas of education, such as high school graduation rates, degree attainment and positions in academia. This proves that Latino/as as a whole have a long way to go before reaching an equitable state in education. In 2011, Latino/as continued to be underrepresented among instruction and research faculty, as they accounted for only 4% of positions. Even among such a small group, 52% of the pool was employed part-time, and 68% of the Latino/a full professors were male, which highlight the inequities of gender and ethnicity in tenure positions.

A way to address and work to resolve these inequities can stem from building stronger pipelines between bachelor’s-granting HSIs and doctoral-granting institutions. Originating the pipeline from HSIs is beneficial, because although not all are the same, they may have policies and resources in place that promote engagement of Latino/a students.

As the demographics of the nation change and the Latino/a community continues to grow, there is a stronger need for Latino/a students to continue through the higher education pipeline. By 2020, 65% of jobs will require post-secondary education, with 35% of those requiring at least a bachelor’s degree (Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl, 2013). If social justice is not enough motivation, policymakers and institutions need to realize that if Latino/as are unqualified to fill the jobs the market will demand, it will bring negative financial repercussions. As HSIs continue to enroll the most Latino/a undergraduate students, there is greater urgency to develop and strengthen pipelines at these institutions that can lead to greater higher education attainment and completion.

Excelencia in Education also presents the top 25 institutions that awarded the most associate, bachelors, masters, professional and doctorate degrees to Latinos in 2012-2013. HSIs have significant presence in those disciplines, with a high of 21/25 in the associate degree category, and a low of 9/25 in the doctorate category.

Although the report highlights the presence of HSIs in the top 25 Latino degree-granting institutions for Latino/as, it does not present the role of for-profit institutions. The University of Phoenix, a for-profit-institution, is in the top three positions in associate, bachelor and masters’ degree-granting categories. For-profit institutions leave students with higher debt and increased likelihood of defaulting on loans, limiting access for students who desire to pursue additional education. As Latino/as and other traditionally marginalized communities become more vulnerable to for-profit institutions, their educational pipeline will continue to be limited.

Natalie Gonzalez and Polet Milian are master’s students in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

Hispanic Serving Institutions: More than Just a Federal Designation?

Gina Garcia 1

Gina Garcia

Perhaps you have read the ongoing debate regarding the federal designation that institutions receive when they enroll 25% or more Latina/o students. Some call the designation simply a political construct, while others argue it is an actual organizational identity.

An emerging body of empirical research on Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) shows that HSIs are “doing more with less,” meaning they are graduating Latina/o students despite having smaller budgets and fewer resources than many non-HSIs. Research also shows that students make strong cultural connections with faculty and staff at HSIs and feel validated in these environments.

Beyond graduation rates and positive student experiences, there are historical and structural indicators that the HSI identity is more than just a federal designation. 

Historical Indicators

Rather than assuming that institutions haphazardly become HSIs as a result of changing demographics, we should examine the history of access and inclusion at these institutions.

In scrutinizing the historical legacy of one four-year HSI in the Southwest, I found that the Chicana/o Movement of the 1960s had a significant impact on the institution. In El Plan de Santa Barbara, Chicana/o student leaders in the organization that came to be known as El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) challenged existing institutional structures by demanding increased access for Chicana/o students, the establishment of Chicana/o studies programs, and increased support services for Chicana/o students.

While these changes did not happen overnight, the trends at this institution show there was an institutional effort to fulfill these demands, as they now have a fully staffed office of outreach and recruitment, one of the largest and strongest Chicana/o studies departments in the country, and an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) that is responsible for advising all students on campus.

More than 40 years after Chicana/o students stormed the administration office to demand that their needs be met, their historical legacy remains strong.

Structural Indicators

While I would argue that HSIs should certainly do more to change their structures in order to better serve Latina/o students, there are numerous examples of best practices that are happening on HSI campuses.

Rather than questioning whether one or two small programs are enough to adequately serve Latina/o students, we should learn from these examples and find ways to scale up the programs that are working.

In my research, I found that the campus has done just that with the EOP. Although these types of programs are often found on the periphery of an institution or on the chopping block when institutional budgets are cut, this institution has learned how to use the EOP model to provide culturally relevant advising to all students on campus, not just the small number of students who qualify for the program. It has done this by developing satellite offices within all of the academic colleges, each with their own director who reports to the central EOP office.

By using a culturally relevant model for advising, campus administrators have decided that practices that are good for low-income, first-generation students are good for all students, regardless of their background.


While these findings cannot be generalized to all HSIs, I encourage researchers, administrators and advocates for HSIs to find value and strength in these institutions, as there are numerous examples of the ways in which institutions that were not founded to serve Latinas/os are in fact providing culturally relevant experiences for all students. Examining the historical legacy is important, as there is much to be learned from the ways Latina/o students have been both included and excluded from participation.

Furthermore, we must scrutinize current organizational structures, including programs and policies, curriculum and pedagogy, and leadership and organizational decision-making, in order to learn about how to best serve Latina/o students. Beyond the federal designation that was granted to HSIs in 1992, there are historical and structural indicators that these institutions are doing their best to enroll, support and graduate Latina/o students.

Dr. Gina Garcia is an assistant professor in the Department of Administrative and Policy Studies at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education.

New Directions for Leadership in the College Presidency at MSIs


Roland Bullard

The search for MSI presidents continues to be a daunting task as institutions struggle with declining enrollments, governmental support, increased alumni concerns, and smaller donation pools. Coupled with the fact that, according to American Council on Education’s On the Pathway to the Presidency (2013), more than 60% of college presidents are at retirement age, and the presidential selection pool is shrinking, it may be time to cast the ‘net’ a little wider when recruiting the next generation of MSI presidents.

That said, despite the limited presidential selection pool, chief student affairs officers (CSAOs) are least likely to be selected for appointment. In fact, in 2007 fewer than 200 college presidents listed CSAO as one of their two prior positions. Additionally, in my dissertation research, where a sample of executive search firm partners was interviewed, one of the most compelling findings was that search firms often overlook even seasoned student affairs executives as viable presidential candidates. Some firms reported that they would never even consider a CSAO for the post.

Five recent presidential hires, however, may signal a trend in hiring for MSI chiefs with student affairs backgrounds. While this is not an exhaustive list, these five presidents serve as interesting case studies:

  • Kevin Rome accepted his first presidency this fall at Lincoln University (Missouri) after serving in three consecutive posts as senior student affairs officer. In his most recent position at North Carolina Central University, he implemented retention initiatives focusing on student satisfaction. The Eagle Service Center, for instance, is a “one-stop shop” model that is being implemented widely as it ensures students receive efficient support services from a central location.
  • Dwaun Warmack began his tenure at Harris-Stowe State University this summer, after serving, among other roles, as the chief student affairs officer at Bethune-Cookman University.  Warmack brought a student-centered, data-driven approach to the institution that resulted in years of record enrollments even in the face of what many called the “Parent Plus Loan debacle.”
  • Logan C. Hampton was recently hired as the 10th president of Lane College. Prior to this appointment, he held the position of vice president for student affairs at University of Arkansas – Little Rock. During his time at UA-LR it is reported that he greatly improved student services, programs and facilities.
  • Brian O. Hemphill is the 10th president at West Virginia State University. The former student affairs chief at Northern Illinois University, he is a nationally known practitioner and scholar on issues of student development, retention, and community concerns. His vision: “West Virginia State University will become the most student-centered, research and teaching, land-grant University in the state.” Dr. Hemphill also recently received a five-year contract extension after a successful start to his tenure.
  • Walter Kimbrough enters his third year at Dillard University after a successful stead as president of Philander Smith College (PSC). Kimbrough’s tenure at PSC included improvements to the physical plant, increases in the endowment, and alumni giving. However, most impressive may have been his legacy of a more socially conscious student body. Additionally, his intentional engagement on the social media front has also garnered national attention with prospective/current students and the popular media.

The common thread in the career paths for these presidents is their preparation in student affairs administration. Additionally, these candidates have exhibited qualities that are needed to advance the mission and sustainability of MSIs. These skills include: student engagement, increasing alumni giving, data-driven decision making, and success in enrollment management.

That said, in the hiring of these candidates, do we see a hiring trend for MSIs emerging? What would this trend say about the evolving priorities and commitment of presidential search committees? Do these selections suggest that there is a renewed focus by MSIs on our most important asset and resource: students? Should search firms look more closely at executives in student affairs for presidential candidates? Possibly. However, further research is needed to assess the effectiveness of these professionals after three to five years on the job to determine if this is a trend worth noting. Kimbrough and Hemphill’s success at PSC, Dillard and WVSU, respectively, may be a strong indicator of the positive outcomes of a student affairs-trained leader at the helm.

For additional information:

Governmental Support:

Smaller donation pools:

Declining Enrollment:

Alumni Concerns:

Dr. Roland Bullard is Vice President for Student Development at Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Follow him on Twitter: @drbullard

Why Tribal Colleges Matter: Our Response to The Hechinger Report

Cheryl Crazybull

Cheryl Crazy Bull

In regard to the article “Tribal colleges give poor return on more than $100 million a year in federal money” in the November 26, 2014 issue of The Hechinger Report which also ran in The Atlantic under the title “The Failure of Tribal Schools”: Sarah Butrymowicz misses several salient points about the challenges facing tribal colleges (TCUs) and their students concerning the colleges’ mission to give—and their students’ goal to earn—a higher education.  We appreciate the importance of analyzing data as it pertains to higher education given the challenges faced in this country when addressing student completion and the cost of higher education.  But as with all analysis, context is the most critical basis for any examination.

Butrymowicz looks at the need for TCU students to receive remedial education when entering college, as well as their graduation rates, but she touches only lightly on the underlying reasons for this. The answer is not simple, but it is tied to socioeconomics. Poverty and its attendant social issues are what prevent so many Native students from entering a college or university, let alone graduating. This nation’s TCUs have been remarkably successful in helping students overcome incredible barriers to entering college and have over time consistently helped students to achieve their educational goals and attain successful employment.

TCUs are able to achieve this despite the roadblocks that prevent Native Americans from entering a college or university, which are well in place before students graduate from high school. According to the Fact Sheet issued by the White House on December 3, 2014 for the sixth annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, in poor reservation communities nearly half of Native American people (42 percent) are under the age of 24; more than one-third of Native children live in poverty; and Native youth have the lowest high school graduation rate of students across all schools. Last June President Obama visited the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation in North and South Dakota (also home of the TCU Sitting Bull College), spurring him to unveil initiatives this week to help young Native Americans and the education system serving them. The White House said they are in a “state of emergency” and the educational, socioeconomic, health and other issues facing young Native people are “nothing short of an academic crisis.”

In the December 3 issue of The Washington Post, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the current status of education and poverty impacting Native Americans is unacceptable. Yet Jewell added that the political arena, its funding constraints, and the lack of budget for the coming year makes it difficult to say if the $2.6 billion budget the Obama administration requested for Indian affairs to address the issues of endemic poverty and substandard education will be available.

The results of that substandard education and poverty that Jewell refers to include low academic readiness (74 percent of students require remedial math instruction and 50 percent require remedial reading or writing). This can be traced to a lack of modern services in schools and Native communities, including lack of college-prep track courses, inadequate funding for Title III student support services, and the lack or scarcity of college counselors and 21st century counseling programs in Native high schools. Tribal colleges counter that by working to get their students performing. They provide students with the tutoring, mentoring, and additional coursework they need to succeed at the college level.

College tuition costs combined with a low income are also a barrier to higher education attainment, perpetuating the inequity when it comes to Native Americans completing a certificate program or earning a college degree. According to the American Community Survey 2013, in 2013 inflation-adjusted dollars, the average per capita income of an American Indian or Alaska Native is $16,777, with 28.9% living below poverty (poverty figures are often much higher on reservations).  According to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), the average cost of a TCU education was $14,566 for 2013-14. Looking at these figures, it is clear that for most Native students the possibility of earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree without financial assistance is a distant dream. Any interruption of aid or occurrence that to most people would be a bump in the road, such as a car repair or family emergency, can force Native students to give up plans of entering college or leave school never to return, making their dream of a higher education unobtainable. Data from the American Indian College Fund, the nation’s largest provider of scholarships for American Indian and Alaska Native students, shows that only 1 in 20 of our scholarship applicants can afford to attend college without financial assistance, reinforcing the financial need of Native American students.

Unemployment is also a major challenge in tribal communities. According to the U.S. Department of Interior in a study using statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, in several states (including Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota, where there are large populations of Native Americans and many TCUs are located) data shows that less than 50% of Native Americans are working who are ages 16 and older and who are living in or near tribal areas of federally recognized tribes.

Participation in the federal Pell Grant program is another way to gauge student need. According to The College Board, the national average for all students receiving Pell Grants at all schools in academic year 2012-13 was 36%. This compares to AIHEC data that shows Pell Grant recipients at TCUs are nearly 80% of the student population. With the maximum Pell Grant amount per academic year at $5,645 and an average cost of a TCU education at $14,566, this leaves an average of $8,921 of unmet financial need for TCU students. Yet only two TCUs participate in the federal student loan program, so many students cannot attend without additional financial assistance.

Native Americans must overcome other challenges to accessing a higher education and succeeding once they are in school. These issues include long commutes (the average commute for a TCU student is 30-100 miles one way, and there is little or no public transportation available in remote reservation areas—requiring impoverished students to have access to a vehicle); a large number of first-generation students at TCUs (59% of all students and 52% of first-time entering students are first-generation students—AIHEC data); and social issues including self-esteem issues and high rates of suicide on reservations due to unresolved historical trauma. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death amongst Native Americans ages 15-24, according to federal statistics.

These are the barriers faced by both Native Americans seeking a higher education and the TCUs whose mission it is to provide it. The good news is Native communities and Native students clearly value a higher education and TCUs are heavily invested in and dedicated to the students and communities they serve. Yes, TCUs are the most poorly funded institutions of higher learning in the United States compared to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and state land-grant institutions, as Butrymowicz illustrates. She notes that current TCU funding per student is $5,850 per student compared to federal authorization to fund at $8,000 per student (which compares to the average of $20,000 per student that Howard University, a historically black college, receives per student). Despite this, TCUs write off an average of $100,000 in tuition costs annually for their students—making do with less than their educational counterparts to keep their doors open for the communities they serve. And despite the overwhelming financial obstacles to obtaining a higher education, Native student enrollment has grown by 23% over the past five years according to AIHEC, as more students see a higher education as a path to self-sufficiency, a better life, and a way to help their communities.

TCU students, once they overcome these challenges to enter college, contribute positively to the socioeconomic situation of their states and tribal college communities along with the schools themselves. According to a study conducted by North Dakota State University, the five tribal colleges located in North Dakota generated more than $142 million of economic impact to the state in Fiscal Year 2012 and employed 815 full-time and 209 part-time workers.

The American Indian College Fund believes that providing additional resources for financial access to a post-secondary education at TCUs and support for TCU programs and initiatives focused on student success is the best way to increase the number of Natives who receive and complete a higher education. These programs must start as early as kindergarten to prepare students for future success through STEM, literacy, leadership, and mentoring programs, to name a few. Programs should also provide access to post-secondary education for students and faculty; and higher education should provide meaningful higher learning opportunities. Finally, all learning opportunities should be paired with support for meaningful employment for Native graduates. As long as we ignore Native students’ unmet educational and financial needs alongside the unique social and historical barriers they face in accessing a higher education—while continuing to evaluate the value of TCUs on the basis of taxpayer benefit rather than the benefit of a higher education to Native students and their communities—Native students will continue to be at a disadvantage.

Reprinted with permission from the American Indian College Fund

Cheryl Crazy Bull is President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund. She also serves on the advisory board for the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

HBCUs and the Urgent Need for Effective Governance


Alvin J. Schexnider

Recently, the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) released an exceptional document, Consequential Boards: Adding Value Where It Matters Most. This report is the handiwork of the National Commission on College and University Board Governance chaired by former Tennessee Governor Philip Bredesen and comprised of a blue ribbon panel of higher education leaders and policy experts. It is arguably, the most important statement on higher education governance ever released and its importance cannot be overstated. The release of the report is timely for all of higher education and particularly for colleges and universities experiencing fiscal and enrollment challenges. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) especially will want to read the report carefully given their individual and collective plight.

Consequential Boards offers seven recommendations and while each has major value, they are interdependent. In order to achieve the desired results, all must be addressed and implemented as a unitary goal. They are as follows:

  1. Boards must improve value in their institutions and lead a restoration of public trust in higher education itself.
  2. Boards must add value to institutional leadership and decision making by focusing on their essential role as institutional fiduciaries.
  3. Boards must act to assure the long-term sustainability of their institutions by addressing changed finances and the imperative to deliver a high-quality education at a lower cost.
  4. Boards must improve shared governance within their institutions through attention to board-president relationships and a reinvigoration of faculty shared governance. Boards additionally must attend to leadership development in their institutions, both for presidents and faculty.
  5. Boards must improve their own capacity and functionality through increased attention to the qualifications and recruitment of members, board orientation, committee composition, and removal of members for cause.
  6. Boards must focus their time on issues of greatest consequence to the institution by reducing time spent reviewing routine reports and redirecting attention to cross-cutting and strategic issues not addressed elsewhere.
  7. Boards must hold themselves accountable for their own performance by modeling the same behaviors and performance they expect from others in their institutions.

Why is this report particularly important for HBCUs?   First and foremost, this is a watershed moment for the nation’s 105 black colleges and universities. Many, if not most, appear to be struggling financially and perform less than average on metrics like retention and six-year completion rates. It is doubtful that most can survive without substantial changes in their business model, leadership and governance. In my judgment, it is in the realm of governance that HBCUs are most challenged and that is why Consequential Boards warrants their immediate attention.

The single most important decision a board makes is hiring a president. Usually, when an HBCU president leaves, he or she is perceived as having failed. What is often overlooked is the governing board’s role in the matter. If the president fails, the board has to assume some responsibility. Governing boards must support presidents while holding them accountable. Boards must not get involved in the daily operations of the institution but must ensure that policies and procedures are in place and followed by the president and the leadership team. The performance of presidents should be regularly evaluated and so should the performance of boards. Today, perhaps more than ever, boards must ensure that trustees possess the skill sets required for effective governance: knowledge of higher education, finances, information technology, strategic planning, marketing and branding, etc.

In 1900, there were 10 black medical schools. By 1923, there were only two: Meharry Medical College and Howard University Medical Department (as it was then called). With the creation of Morehouse School of Medicine in 1975, there are now three. In short, we should not delude ourselves about the fact that HBCUs are imperiled and neither should we be surprised when some are closed as have several in recent years. The simple truth is that some HBCUs are not salvageable. By addressing the urgent need for effective governance we can improve the life chances of some of these incredibly invaluable institutions.

Alvin J. Schexnider is the author of Saving Black Colleges (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He is a former chancellor of Winston-Salem State University, a board governance consultant to the Association of Governing Boards, and an advisory board member to the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Race and Doctoral Student Socialization: Looking to HBCUs and MSIs to Address Vulnerabilities in Doctoral Education


Pamela Petrease Felder

A recently published article by Felder, Stevenson & Gasman (2014) focused on race and doctoral student socialization suggests that racial interaction, racial encounters and the embracing of racial interests continue to be some of the most difficult issues to navigate during the doctoral process for marginalized students. Oftentimes, these issues are situated within the exchange of student research interests and the purpose of meaningful faculty support. Further research on this exchange can facilitate greater awareness about how we can support the next generation of faculty leaders and practitioners. Two reports in particular have emphasized the need for this additional study: The Path Forward (2010) and a subsequent report titled, Pathways through Graduate School and into Careers (2012). In addition to discussing general trends about U.S. graduate education, these reports also suggest that research about underrepresented students within doctoral process should consider how a lack of understanding the underrepresented student experience creates vulnerabilities in our graduate education system and sustained our individual and organizational capacity for innovation related to an awareness of the nuances associated with the graduate student experience.

The role of HBCUs and MSIs in addressing vulnerabilities is essential to identifying and attracting talented students from historically marginalized groups. Comprehensive efforts are in place but greater importance must be placed on strategies to incorporate transitions into doctoral education; emphasizing degree completion. Efforts to develop effective strategies for supporting academic success and degree completion must consider attrition and the reasons students silently trickle out of programs. These efforts should be central to the institutional mission for recruitment and to the building of student service infrastructure. Understanding why and how students leave their doctoral programs are just as essential to understanding why and how students graduate. This knowledge is also essential to creating interventions that are aligned with specific organizational aspects associated with the student experience.

New kinds of innovative approaches for implementing these efforts should be considered and they should prioritize diversity practices and research. This includes novel ways of academically advising marginalized students. Felder and Barker (2013) discuss the value of understanding how research interests converge between students and faculty member and using characteristics associated with successful advisement strategies as models for student-faculty exchange. Talented students enter doctoral programs with expertise about being academically successful. Should their academic journeys involve tremendous hardship and challenges, their knowledge of overcoming them is wrought with rich cultural insights about navigating the academic process. Expression of this knowledge should be supported and challenged to cultivate new knowledge pathways focused on building practical competencies that are transferrable to a variety of professional contexts. For the doctoral students this should also include consideration of academic and nonacademic career opportunities.

Another important effort is building capacity for the preparation of future faculty members. In doing this it’s important to consider the rapidly changing demographics within college university contexts and the ways technology plays a role in facilitating capacity development. Culturally relevant technology including social media can be instrumental in communicating ideas, building relationships, and demonstrating support and a coalition-building of ideas. However, it’s important to consider how this technology can hinder meaningful dialogue and the translation of identities across generational and disciplinary gaps. Preparation of future faculty means that students will enter professional domains to work among multiple-stakeholders with a variety of generational and disciplinary backgrounds. Many diversity models emphasize the importance intercultural and multicultural competencies in developing infrastructures supportive of racial and cultural awareness.

Ultimately, strengthening the capacity of doctoral programs at HBCUs and other MSIs can improve our understanding of race and doctoral student socialization as they relate to vulnerabilities within doctoral education. Though racism has been considered a national birth defect, with sustained attention to understanding the perceptions of doctoral students who may be concerned with improving conditions associated with race, there is tremendous potential for healing the wounds of our past and improving our nation’s ability to compete and thrive globally.

Dr. Pamela Petrease Felder is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland – Eastern Shore (UMES) and an affiliate of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.