Examining the Transformative Role of Faculty at HBCUs


Pamela Petrease Felder

When I was a graduate student, one of my peers asked me if I would ever return to an Historical Black College or University (HBCU) as a faculty member. Given my research interests on the role HBCUs play in supporting historically marginalized students in their transition to doctoral studies, and being an HBCU alumnus myself, without hesitation I remember thinking, “Of course I would.” I recall his look of disbelief. After all, we were in graduate school pursuing “elite” graduate degrees—why would we want to work at institutions that face so many challenges?

I wasn’t puzzled by his response as I knew why this sentiment existed. That is, graduate school is a huge personal and financial investment and the idea of making a professional commitment to institutions that have been known to struggle is unrealistic for some graduate students. However, HBCUs have a history of resilience and have made great contributions to higher education. When thinking about institutional transformation, I often wonder about the kind of professional commitment necessary to support institutions that have had to accomplish more with less to support historically marginalized student populations. Specifically, in what ways do faculty members contribute to the future success of HBCUs?

Fast-forward several years, and in 2014, I returned to my undergraduate alma mater, The University of Maryland Eastern-Shore, as a faculty member in an HBCU graduate program. After a grueling job search, looking to find a home where my teaching and research interests would be well aligned with the institution’s mission, I was delighted to return to the very place where my postsecondary educational journey began. I returned with high hopes to do what I could to make my institution a better place—to give back to it what it had given to me, especially through my research in the area of doctoral education.

However, I couldn’t help thinking about my previous conversation with my peer regarding whether I would consider returning to an HBCU as a faculty member. To reflect in deeper analysis about my return and contribution, I participated in several conversations with my faculty colleagues to get a sense of their perspectives regarding what affects their ability to transform the future success of HBCUs. Many of the conversations related to the findings of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institution’s report titled, The Changing Face of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including: workload, salaries, and the lack of shared governance.


HBCU faculty work extremely hard to support student success in ways that are not typically measured or quantified. I’ve witnessed my colleagues spend tremendous amounts of time outside of scheduled office hours and classroom time mentoring students. This mentoring often consists of sharing important life lessons and teaching students how to manage life challenges that greatly influence their lives and degree completion. Since this kind of work is essential to the academic success of students, it’s important to provide faculty support and recognition to build awareness of this activity. Also, providing resources that contribute to the process of mentoring would allow faculty to share this expertise in more meaningful ways. This might consist of formalized collaborative opportunities across departments, schools, and institutions where faculty can share mentoring practices. For example, mentorship practices that addresses the institution’s function to support racial and cultural awareness could serve to promote institutional diversity initiatives.


There are significant national average salary disparities for HBCU faculty. While HBCUs do their best to secure financial resources in order to increase faculty salaries, thereby directly addressing this inequity, other areas of compensation should be examined to minimize this gap. For instance, some HBCU faculty members could receive course releases for their mentoring efforts. Also, HBCU faculty members with twelve-month contracts could receive nine-month contracts to allow for increased research productivity through grant and publication writing during the summer months.

Shared Governance

HBCU faculty have a lot to say about the governance of their institutions. However, conversations about governance are minimized to the margins of the governing process. Faculty discussions about governance are often powerful and transformational, but the opportunity to share these perspectives often don’t exist in ways that directly shape institutional leadership. It’s important to understand why opportunities for faculty engagement are not part of the governance process. This would help lead to identifying strategies that strengthen the participation of HBCU faculty in ways that broaden their potential for involvement in institutional decision-making.

In conclusion, what I learned about my return to an HBCU and from conversations with my colleagues is that it’s critically important to understand the relevance of faculty leadership to the future success of HBCUs. This involves understanding the influence of faculty participation on the mission and culture of HBCUs and the ways this influence can be supported to develop avenues for future success. There is much exploration to be done to uncover areas for innovation in this area and further research is necessary.

An infusion of resources is needed to support these faculty members’ mentoring, teaching, research efforts, and professional development.

This support must address HBCU faculty experiences and the ways they contribute to these institutions beyond what we’ve known them to do (doing more with less). Support must help HBCU faculty members’ efforts to strive towards their greater potential for transformation in higher education. Honoring the voices of HBCU faculty is important for increasing awareness about the culture and vitality of HBCUs.

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.

HBCU Athletics Demonstrate Black Excellence


Louis Bolling

As a former Morgan State University student-athlete, I understand the power and relevance of athletic programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). As a journalist with the nation’s oldest African-American newspaper, The Philadelphia Tribune, I understand and respect the power of media’s ability to tell stories to the masses.

Collegiate athletic programs are a vital component of the higher education system and college experience for a variety of reasons. However, the rich history, traditions, and achievements of people of color in HBCU athletics—their successes and historical relevance—often go untold.

Forty-five years ago, Howard University’s Men’s Soccer program made history while embodying all of the positive characteristics of collegiate athletics, even espousing the spirit of Olympism: blending sport with education and culture.

In 1971, led by Head Coach Lincoln ‘Tiger’ Phillips, Howard’s Men’s Soccer team won the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Championship. The team was stripped of the title only to win it three years later in 1974. ESPN’s new platform, The Undefeated, recently captured the story through a short film, Redemption Song.

“The premiere [of Redemption Song] reawakened emotions that had been buried for decades,” said the film’s producer, Mark W. Wright. “But while it’s great to get this story out to the world, what comes from it is what matters. Awareness is good, but awareness fades. We want to learn lessons. We want to right wrongs. We want to know our history to learn from it,” exclaimed Wright.

Formerly a Director of Content & Events for ESPN Events in Charlotte, a position he held for almost 10 years, Wright recently joined the staff of The Undefeated to develop content around HBCUs.

Redemption Song is as personal to me as any story I’ve ever worked on in my career. For starters, it’s about soccer—the game I grew up playing and loving in Jamaica. It’s about my alum mater, Howard University. And, it’s about my former soccer coach, Ian Bain, who is more than a coach but a mentor and father figure. Journalistically, Redemption Song stands on its own merits, having all of the elements that make for a good story.”

Phillips, Howard’s legendary men’s soccer coach, called his program’s trials “a setback” that were “a set up for a comeback.”

“Our team’s situation was taking place during the rise of black consciousness,” said Phillips, who also founded the Black Soccer Coaches Association.

Recently named a 2016 National Association of Black Journalists Pioneer Award recipient, Phillips stated “we wanted to be the best at a sport dominated by white people in this country. Our team was more than an athletic program; it became an extension of the civil rights movement in a way only sports can.”

Phillips’ teams consisted of American and international student-athletes from countries in Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. This was a unique dynamic in itself, placing Howard at the forefront of recruiting international student-athletes, which is even more impressive when taking into account that the teams’ members maintained collective grade point averages over 3.0.

With plans to build original content and investigative journalism related to Spike Lee Lil’ Joints documentary shorts, Redemption Song presents a myriad of issues for The Undefeated to explore and for HBCU athletic supporters and preservationists to take action on.

Reinstating and conferring the 1971 Howard University Men’s Soccer team as NCAA Champions, inducting Coach Phillips into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame, and hiring more soccer coaches and athletic administrators of color at higher education institutions are a few of the topics that deserve further examination and advocacy.

Former Howard University student-athlete and renaissance man, Rock Newman, passionately stated “This wasn’t just about a soccer championship. This was about Black excellence.”

To watch Redemption Song, visit https://theundefeated.com/videos/redemption-song.

Louis Bolling serves the University of Pennsylvania community as an Interfaith Fellow to the Athletics & Recreation Community with the Office of the Chaplain. He holds a BS in Physical Education with a concentration in Sports Administration from Morgan State University. He is a freelance writer with The Philadelphia Tribune and Huffington Post. His interests include athletic administration at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, sport for development and peace, Olympism, university-assisted community schools and community-based sports issues. 

When HSIs Aren’t an Option, Some Hispanic Students Are Choosing to Attend HBCUs over PWIs—Here’s Why


Heather J. Mathers

As the Hispanic population continues to grow at exponential rates in the United States, higher education institutions are seeing increasing numbers of Hispanic students walking through their doors. As of 2012, Hispanics have displaced African Americans as the largest minority population and have become the largest minority group on college campuses. Although many Hispanic students choose to attend one of the over 400 designated Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), there are oftentimes geographical, financial, or other limitations that may affect their ability to enroll in these colleges and universities. The reality is that the majority of Hispanic students find themselves in educational settings where they are the minority, and their reasons for choosing to attend one type of institution over another is relevant for understanding today’s Hispanic college student.

In 15 interviews conducted at three different public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic students reflected on their reasons for choosing their respective institutions over other possible alternatives, including Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). Pseudonyms have been used to protect participant privacy.

Manny, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, stated, “The fact that it’s an HBCU made me think that they actually appreciated people who are from different areas. There is also a Multicultural Center, which made me think it was a diverse university compared to others.”

Another student, Freddie, a senior majoring in criminal justice and psychology, found the faculty and staff at his HBCU to be more involved than what his peers’ experienced at PWIs. He stated, “I looked into professors and the criminal justice department as well as psychology, and I was able to speak with them during orientation, and they actually seemed like they cared about the student. And it wasn’t even like a one-time thing, because after we exchanged contact information, email and everything, it would still be the same level of care and everything. So based off of my other friends that went to traditionally White institutions, most of my friends said they just see them like another student. They did not take the time to speak with them or meet with them. So that was definitely a big reason why I attended a HBCU.”

Additionally, many students experienced a strong sense of belonging and a sense of campus community at their respective HBCUs. Tabitha, a senior majoring in psychology, commented that she applied to multiple institutions, but once she got to her HBCU, she felt “a good family vibe from the college,” which solidified her decision to attend.

Juan, a senior majoring in criminal justice, discussed how the increased diversity on campus has resulted in a more positive experience for him. He commented, “It is a great university; it is a great place to be. I am really comfortable. There are more Latinos and it is getting more diverse, which kind of in a way I do like even though some African American students wouldn’t want that. But I do like it, because it is still going to be a HBCU school, but I just like it how the university is bringing a lot more different races to the school.”

Other participants reflected on how they have grown as individuals at their respective HBCUs because of their ability to learn about other races through culturally enriched study and a historically-driven campus community.

Jennifer, a senior majoring in sociology, stated, “I feel like because there are predominantly Black students [on campus] that I have gained a lot of confidence when it comes to understanding who I am and my background and just relating to other students. I can relate to a lot of other students even though we are not from the same area and we might not have culturally the same background.”

The unfortunate reality is that many PWIs are rarely diverse, except when located in urban settings. Conversely, research suggests that HBCUs are the most integrated and diverse higher education institutions that currently exist. They are more nurturing and inclusive than other educational settings, and the resources that are unique to HBCUs could be beneficial for other minority populations, specifically Hispanics, who encounter similar socioeconomic and educational struggles as their African American peers.

As many HBCUs are working towards increasing diversity on campus, the inclusion of their growing Hispanic population cannot be ignored. Examining why these individuals choose to attend HBCUs allows for a greater understanding of how to recruit, retain, and serve this growing demographic to further enrich diversity efforts in higher education nationwide.

Heather J. Mathers holds a Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education from Cardinal Stritch University. Her research interests include the Hispanic student population, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, ethnic identity development, multiculturalism, diversity in higher education, and social justice issues.

4 Things I Wish I Knew About MSIs When Applying To College

Mayo, Stephanie

Stephanie Mayo

While I am so grateful for the support I had in applying to college as a first-generation college student, I wish I knew more about Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) during that time. I wish I knew them for their invaluable work in supporting students rather than the negative myths surrounding them. After months conducting research on MSIs as a Research Assistant at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) and having multiple interactions with students who attended MSIs over the past few years, I have come to the conclusion that there is another side of MSIs that the higher education system and mainstream media do not reveal or appreciate. Thus, I’ve decided to provide some of the information I’ve learned about the other side of MSIs to help inform others about their great work. Here are four important things you should know about MSIs, especially if you or someone you know is applying to college:

  • Despite being under-resourced overall, MSIs enroll a proportionally higher number of first-generation, low-income students of color than non-MSIs.

MSIs tend to be under-resourced for two reasons according to the Institute of Higher Education. One, because MSIs serve mostly low-income, first generation, college students, they try to maintain their tuition at reasonable prices to accommodate their students. As a result, MSIs overall have lower revenues than Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). For instance, in 2010, core revenues per full-time equivalent (FTE) student were an average of $16,648 at four-year MSIs, compared to $29,833 per FTE at non-MSIs. Two, MSIs continuously face state and federal budget cuts. While all public institutions must cope with declines in state appropriations, MSIs are more vulnerable due to the lower revenue they receive compared to PWIs.

Despite having less resources, MSIs contribute greatly to the number of low-income, first-generation, college students of color enrolled in higher education institutions. While 38% of undergraduate students at non-MSIs received a Pell grant in the 2011-12 school year, 44% of undergraduate students at MSIs received a Pell grant. At Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), two-thirds of enrolled students receive Pell grants. At MSIs overall, 42% of the students enrolled are first-generation college students compared to only 33% at non-MSIs.

Similar to serving more students who are low-income and first-generation college students, MSIs also serve a larger portion of students who are ethnic minorities. HBCUs comprise 3% of all colleges and universities, yet enroll 16% of the Black undergraduate population. Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) represent less than 1% of the total number of colleges and universities, yet enroll 9% of Native American students in college. Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) comprise less than 1% of postsecondary institutions in the US, yet enroll 20% of all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in higher education. Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) represent about 8% of all colleges and universities, yet enroll 51% of all Latino students enrolled in higher educational institutions. Based on these numbers, it appears that MSIs serve greater numbers of students who are high-need students, despite having less resources than non-MSIs to serve them.

  1. MSIs are large producers of students of color in STEM fields and graduate and professional degrees.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, HBCUs, for example, have provided numerous educational opportunities to Black Americans. Two HBCUs, Howard University and Meharry Medical College, trained more than 80% of the entire Black population who have degrees in either medicine and dentistry. HBCUs also educated three-fourths of Blacks with doctorate degrees and four-fifths of all Black federal judges in their undergraduate careers. HBCUs rank high in the percentage of graduates who pursue and complete graduate and professional training. They also lead in awarding bachelor degrees to Blacks in the life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

Similar to HBCUs, HSIs educate large numbers of Latinos who attain PhDs. In a ranking conducted by the National Science Foundation of the top 50 colleges and universities that produced Latino PhDs between 2008 and 2012, the 16 MSIs on the list produced almost half (49.3%) of the total Latino PhD recipients. Additionally, another list comprised by the National Science Foundation ranking the top 40 US undergraduate institutions that prepared Latinos to attain their doctorate degree in engineering listed nine HSIs. These nine HSIs contributed 43.7% of the students represented by all 40 schools.

Similar trends are found with TCUs and with AANAPISIS. Thus, the National Science and Technology Council recently acknowledged that MSIs are the institutions to work with to increase the percentage of people of color in STEM fields. In 2013, it created a 5-year plan to collaborate with MSIs to continue supporting their work in increasing students of color in underrepresented fields.

  1. MSIs can have different structures to support their students of color.

The framework of MSIs is to best serve the needs of the minority population they serve. During my time at CMSI, I’ve learned that there two ways to define MSIs: as either mission-based or population-based. Mission-based MSIs integrate serving a specific minority population into their school mission. HBCUs and TCUs are mission-based MSIs. As for population-based MSIs, they are colleges and universities that have a specific percentage of enrolled students that are from a specific minority student population. These two definitions can and often do overlap, but they also mean different MSIs can have different structures of support for their students of color.

Once a school reaches a certain percentage, that school must then “apply for eligibility for Title III/V programs, which includes demonstrating a certain level of institutional need based on a high proportion of low-income students or relatively low expenditures per student.” Once a school receives federal funding, that college/university is then officially recognized as an MSI. The enrollment percentage required for a college/university to be eligible to be recognized as an MSI varies depending on the kind of MSI designation the school is likely to reach. AANAPISIs and most HSIs are examples of enrollment-driven MSIs.

Regardless of whether an MSI is mission-based or enrollment-driven, the specific needs of low-income, first-generation college minority students are emphasized. Having a college/university focus on the academic performance and well-being of students from disadvantaged backgrounds translates into culturally responsive learning, acceptance, care, and appreciation of low-income, first-generation minority college students. Professors focus on building close relationships with students and often encourage students to bring their whole selves to class. MSIs understand that part of the success of an MSI is recruiting professors of color to support and mentor their students of color. MSIs empower their students to use their background as a strength, which helps students build strong self-identities.

Based on personal accounts from my friends who attended MSIs who are now in graduate school, their MSI professors worked diligently with them to help them to understand coursework concepts. Also, for my peers who attended MSIs, it was uncommon to see other students of color feel stigmatized in pursuing STEM degrees. While the mainstream media seemingly never fails to mention the progress that has been made to support low-income, first-generation college students on PWI campuses, what they miss is that such support has been routinely available at MSIs all along.

  1. A low-income, first-generation, student of color is equally as likely to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from an MSI as they are from a non-MSI

There is the misconception that MSIs graduate students from low-income and minority backgrounds at lower rates compared to non-MSIs. Admittedly, MSIs do have lower graduate rates than non-MSIs. However, one must take into account the disadvantage MSIs have in resources and in the kinds of population they serve compared to non-MSIs. Demonstrated in point 2 above, MSIs receive lower revenue than non-MSIs overall. MSIs also cater to more high-needs students than non-MSIs. Thus, when comparing graduation rates between MSIs and non-MSIs, one must understand that MSIs are more at a disadvantage than non-MSIs.

The disadvantage, however, does not impede MSIs from graduating low-income, first-generation college minority students in relatively high numbers and in underrepresented fields. Despite the continuous challenges MSIs face in meeting the needs of the students, MSIs graduate students at the same rate as non-MSIs when comparing students based on the same level of academic preparation. A study by Stella Flores and Toby Park, for example, revealed that students at HSIs graduated at the same rate as students at non-HSIs when controlling for the educational background of students and the resources of the institutions they attend. This is a significant finding considering that MSIs have less funding and serve more high-needs students than non-MSIs.

These are the four points about MSIs that I wish I knew when applying to colleges. Knowing them would have dispelled myths that kept me from applying to these supportive institutions and helped me make a more informed choice. Rather than excluding MSIs from my list, I should have incorporated them. This is not to suggest that I do not appreciate the experience and opportunities I had attending a non-MSI. However, for high school students considering college, it is important to have a full view of the options available to them. As the four points above demonstrate, there are a lot of good reasons for students applying to college to refrain from discounting MSIs—and even more reasons to consider including MSIs at the tops of their lists.

Stephanie Mayo is currently a student at the Penn Graduate School of Education pursuing her M.S.Ed. in Education Policy and a research assistant at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Coming Full Circle From a Minority Serving Institution to a Predominantly White Institution


Jennifer Yang

If you were to ask me in high school where I saw myself in six years, I would have been unable to answer. I graduated from Luther Burbank High School, a public school in a low-income area of south Sacramento, California in 2010. When graduation came closer, I knew I, as a Hmong woman, had two options. The first option was to get married, be a nyab (daughter in law), and take care of the family while my husband went to work. But in the Hmong culture, a nyab is expected to perform all expectations and duties without being asked. She holds no power and is often judged and criticized by her husband’s family. Her first responsibility is to take care of her husband and his family. A nyab is submissive to her husband and takes care of her husband’s needs before her own. I knew this was not the life I wanted to live because I had witnessed my mother endure numerous challenges as a wife and mother. Instead, I took a second option—I decided to use school as the ignition to follow my dreams.

Although college was a foreign concept to me, I decided that I would learn as I went. In the fall of 2010, I started my college career at Sacramento State, an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI) and now recently a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). As the first in my family to attend college, I did not know how to navigate the college educational system. Fortunately, I was enrolled in equity programs that serve low-income, first-generation college students like myself. I joined the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), a program that aims to help students achieve their college goals by providing services needed to be successful in college. I received support for admissions assistance, a special orientation to the university by EOP staff who also helped me picked my class schedule, and help understanding the general education requirements needed to graduate. I was assigned a designated academic counselor to support me with academic advising, personal counseling, and tutoring. If there were anything that went wrong with my financial aid package, the EOP counselor was also there to help me work through the problem.

In high school, I was not given the correct support to prepare me to do well in college, so when I finally got to Sacramento State, I was lacking skills such as studying and time management. But thankfully I had a peer mentor to help guide me and I was able to participate in the college’s EOP learning community where I got to take classes with my peers. When I needed help, they were also there to support me. What made EOP most comfortable was the fact the counselors and staff came from backgrounds similar to mine. They empathized with the challenges I was facing at home and school. This was especially important because they understood how to effectively give me the support I needed.

In addition to EOP, I also participated in the Full Circle Project (FCP), a program funded by the AANAPISI grant from the U.S. Department of Education. I learned of FCP when I was already a junior in college, but I was not as involved on campus. However, FCP taught me the importance of campus engagement through leadership programs, clubs, organizations, and community. Although I was not a student in the program, I found ways to get involved. I gained confidence in myself as a student, gained a better sense of my identity, and learned about leadership skills through the professional development events and activities. FCP invited Asian Pacific Islander (API) speakers with backgrounds similar to mine. Some of the speakers talked about the challenges they faced and it showed me that despite the cultural and gender barriers I continue to face as a Hmong woman, if I believe in myself, anything can be possible. I became hopeful and dreamed even bigger than before. I was given the opportunity to work as a peer mentor for FCP to support first-generation API college students to navigate the college system.

With the support I received from EOP, I was able to come full circle by supporting students just like how I was assisted when I first entered college. I also participated in programs like the CSU Asian American and Pacific Islander Initiative where I developed a heightened awareness of my identity. By exploring my own identity, I became more confident and was no longer ashamed of my Hmong background. I organized a group of student ambassadors and went out to the local high schools to talk to students about our experiences in college. We talked to students one-on-one about how college helped change our lives and how they too could make it into college.

I graduated Sacramento State in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Ethnic Studies and a concentration in Asian American Studies. Now, in May 2016, I have graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with my master’s degree in higher education. By attending a Minority Serving Institution, I learned the skills necessary to excel in a Predominantly White Institution. Six years ago, I could not have even imagined myself moving across the country for school, but through the support of EOP and FCP, I am now able to dream, achieve and inspire.

I challenge funders, policymakers, and higher education leaders to include API students when developing academic support programs. Our country needs to understand that the model minority myth is not true and that it does not represent all 48 API ethnic groups. More importantly, we need to invest in Sacramento State and other AANAPISIs because these institutions are playing a central role serving high concentrations of low-income, first-generation API students. Take it from me—without these institutions, I would have been stuck going in circles instead of coming full circle with my education and helping other students succeed in the process.

Jennifer Yang is a recent graduate from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and a research assistant at the Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Social Justice Through Education: A Shared Sentiment for Empowering Nations

Cheryl Crazybull

Cheryl Crazy Bull

I was inspired to see Hilary Pennington’s article, “Rethinking scholarships as social justice” in the Ford Foundation’s Equals Change blog. Her article examines the approach in action through the implementation of the Ford Foundation’s International Fellowships Program, which spans 22 countries and a decade to support emerging leaders who face discrimination because of their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, economic status, or physical ability. Her essay opens the door to discussing and examining further why scholarships are particularly important to indigenous people as tools of social justice and opportunity.

Here at the American Indian College Fund scholarships are the underpinning for social justice in American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities. Scholarships support students in their path to better lives for themselves, their families, and their tribes.

Pennington speaks to the importance of educating leaders in marginalized communities to further social justice in some of the world’s poorest countries. Countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East were routinely plundered for raw earth minerals, timber, rubber, and oil. The history of colonization undisputedly left a swath of poverty and dis-empowered individuals in its wake with regard to political contributions, education, and control over the nation’s resources. The College Fund shares The Ford Foundation’s mission of social justice through scholarships and empowering citizens from nations that were weakened through colonization, however, we focus within the borders of the United States. Like peoples of other colonized nations, AIAN people were and still are sovereign nations, and in many cases their experiences parallel those of peoples living in countries in Asia, Africa, and South America as external nations imposed political systems that excluded and oppressed original inhabitants to wrest control of valuable land and resources.

American Indian and Alaska Native nations in the United States remain sovereign nations. They have a special relationship with the federal government based on treaties. Tribes share the experiences of other former colonized nations. The struggle continues today because the political and social inequality rooted in colonization has led to deeply entrenched poverty among indigenous peoples. The many other issues in the news: health care inequalities, substance abuse, lower high school and college graduation rates, and the like, are all merely side effects of endemic poverty (The U.S. Census Bureau reported its 2014 one-year estimates at 28.3% of AIAN people are living below the poverty line, compared with 15.5% of the overall population). Rather than treating the many symptoms related to poverty, the American Indian College Fund believes that education is the answer to empowering individuals and creating thriving Native communities.

Pennington referencing significant recent scholarship gifts to prominent institutions says it remains to be seen whether scholarships reach non-traditional candidates to “actually challenge entrenched systems of inequality,” stating that too many scholarships reach students who are already at the top. At the American Indian College Fund, we know that in addition to the best and the brightest students in AIAN communities there are many deserving students who have aspirations for a higher education. These students, too, can and should be encouraged to make important contributions. In Native communities where poverty is endemic, it is AIAN students who are often left with few options for a higher education.

While scholarships provide access to institutions of higher education, their symbolic value cannot be taken for granted. Scholarship support, coupled with the student services developed for AIAN students by tribal colleges, signals to our students that they are seen, that they are heard, and that we stand with them. We agree that non-traditional students are necessary for any movement to dismantle systems of oppression. Thirty-nine percent of the students the American Indian College Fund supported in 2014-15 with scholarships were first-generation students, and of those 49% had dependents and 38% were single parents. In addition, the students we support are non-traditional in that they are older, with an average age of 29.

Current and future leaders of social justice movements for racial and gender equity have and will continue to have tribal college degrees.

Tribal colleges and universities were created during the Civil Rights movement by tribal nations for just that purpose. Tribal leaders saw the need to educate the next generation to prevent “brain drain” and to lead their communities in business, health care, law, education, and science. These leaders knew that access to an affordable, quality higher education while preserving their cultures was the key to their endurance and success. Today the American Indian College Fund provides monetary support for 35 tribal colleges and universities serving AIAN communities nationwide and also provides students with scholarship support to attend them. It is interesting to note that tribal colleges and universities led the way with grass-roots, tailored education programming that reached deep into the community, serving the needs of many community members other than just students, in the same model that the United States Agency for International Development has found to be most successful today. Led and staffed by dedicated local community members, tribal colleges have also established culturally based early childhood education programs, health clinics, libraries, adult education courses, and more, which has expanded the sustainability of Native communities, their cultures, and their traditions.

Like the Ford Foundation, we find that scholarship recipients develop the skills needed to make a positive global impact and find solutions to increasingly complex world challenges, such as environmental degradation and sustainable business development. Indigenous communities are often ground zero for observing the effects of global climate change, and Native scientists educated at tribal colleges and participating in NASA and College Fund research programs are studying first-hand the impacts on water and soil quality, impacting not just the community and region, but the entire nation.

We are passionate in our belief that a higher education will ensure that the inequities of colonization can be remedied and that our current and future generations in Native communities succeed. Tribal colleges educate teachers who serve as role models in schools in Native communities, where today the majority of teachers are still non-Native. They educate health care providers who integrate traditional and western practices of medicine for effective healing practices for their communities. They educate community leaders like Kevin Killer, a member of the Lakota nation who grew up in Denver but went back to his community to attend and graduate from Oglala Lakota College. Today he serves his community as a South Dakota state legislator. Killer recognizes the importance of education in creating economically sustainable communities, saying, “Oglala Lakota College and tribal colleges in general help provide educational opportunities to members living on reservations. Without these opportunities there would be an even steeper hill to climb towards social justice. Having an institution of higher learning in so many communities around the nation is a privilege that many younger tribal members have only recently gained access to in the last 40 years. Tribal colleges serve as the impetus to many opportunities, including my own story of running for elected office. That would have been difficult at a larger institution.”

Killer is particularly interested in representing young people, as he serves a reservation with many challenges and a high birth rate (in Shannon County, half of the population was under the age of 18 in 2013) and he wants to ensure his constituents receive the representation, health care, and education they need and deserve. This past session Killer sponsored successful bills to create a paraprofessional tuition assistance scholarship program, a Native American achievement schools grant program, and instruction on South Dakota’s tribal history, culture, and government.

We at the College Fund believe that scholarships are the ultimate tool in social justice, helping to heal the wounds caused by poverty and injustice by giving students who otherwise could not afford an education opportunity and hope for a better future. The process is slow and inequality persists today—still only slightly more than 13% American Indians aged 25 and older have a college degree according to the U.S. Census—less than half of their non-Native peers (28.3%) counterparts. But like the Ford Foundation, the College Fund is committed to social justice by creating opportunities for all, and creating awareness about the transformative power an education has on entire communities and the need to support educational opportunities for all.

Global injustices exist within our own borders.  At the American Indian College Fund we stand with Native students to support scholarships and programs that help them get a higher education. We invite you to join us as we help our students to excel and go on to rebuild prosperous Native communities for today and for future generations.

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.

Teacher Education at Minority Serving Institutions: Some Perspectives from AERA 2016


Alice E. Ginsberg

Only 17% of the nation’s teaching force is comprised of teachers of color while over 49% of students are from minority groups. In some cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, over 80% of students are minorities. And although we continue to prepare and recruit more teachers of color into the profession every year, the gap continues to grow. Minority teachers are leaving the profession at higher rates than other teachers due to the stress of working in high-need, under-resourced schools, as well as feelings of isolation, low pay, and lack of leadership opportunities. These problems and more were on full display at this year’s AERA Annual Meeting, whose theme was “Public Scholarship to Promote Diverse Democracies.”

While at AERA, I attended multiple paper sessions and roundtable discussions on preparing teachers of color to teach in minority and high-needs public schools. The themes ranged from preparing teachers to use culturally relevant pedagogy and advocate for students of color to issues surrounding the recruitment and retention of teachers of color. Many of the speakers and moderators hailed from Minority Serving Institutions such as Rita Kohli at the University of California, Riverside and Danielle Lansing at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute. Others, such as Tyrone Howard at the University of California, Los Angeles and Richard Milner, at the University of Pittsburgh, are leaders in the field of minority teacher education and culturally relevant pedagogy.

In a roundtable discussion titled “Racialized Lives and Bodies of Teachers,” for example, Rita Kohli discussed her current research with 344 teachers in an urban school district in the California Bay Area. Through surveys and qualitative interviews, Kohli found vast differences in how white teachers and teachers of color experienced their teaching placements. When asked about the extent to which they felt supported by administrators in their school, 33% of teachers of color responded “not at all” in contrast to only 9% of white teachers. Similarly, when asked to what extent they felt valued by other teachers on the staff, 27% of teachers of color said “not at all” in contrast to only 3% of white teachers. When asked if they felt connected to their peers, 27% of teachers of color responded “not at all” in contrast to 2% of white teachers.

These differences were common across questions about school leadership and job promotion, leading many new teachers of color to question whether they will stay in the profession at all. As one teacher noted: “Sometimes, I consider not teaching anymore. Not having any mentorship or support has made me question myself and why I became a teacher . . . I feel I am operating in complete isolation and I’m exhausted.” As Rita Kohli suggests, “As we diversify the teaching force, we do very little to shift the culture of schools. We need to better understand the racial climate we are recruiting teachers of color into.”


From the AERA 2016 panel: “Knowledge as Public Intellects: Indigenous Perspectives Towards Nation Building and Democracy”

In a panel titled “Knowledge Keepers as Public Intellectuals: Indigenous Perspectives Towards Nation Building and Democracy,” scholars discussed the importance of preparing teachers to work in indigenous schools, where issues of family, community, and tribal culture are an essential part of the curriculum and ethos of teaching. Indeed, the issue of building stronger and more aligned relationships between universities, schools, and minority communities was raised in many presentations across AERA. Teacher educators at a variety of panels described pre-service teaching immersion programs, such as the STEP-UP program at the University of Illinois, Chicago where teacher candidates spend four weeks over the summer teaching in urban schools and doing community internships while living with families in the community.

Despite the importance of educational diversity, I left AERA with the impression that our current model of education does not adequately value or support minority teachers. For example, Lisa Bennett, Cathy Yun, and Laura Alamillo from California State University, Fresno discussed standardized tests as a barrier for high quality teacher candidates from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds. According to Bennett, Yun, and Alamillo, these tests can be so expensive that it is not unusual for minority teacher candidates to have to choose between taking the test and paying their rent. Cultural bias on the testing questions also often mean that minority candidates do not do well on these tests, despite strong evidence that they go on to become effective and caring teachers for minority students.

More needs to be done to cultivate, support, and retain these teachers. Researchers stress that teachers of color are instrumental for the success of students of color, many of which attend underserved schools in low-income, immigrant, and ESL communities. It has been found that minority teachers not only serve as role models for students who have been marginalized by the educational system, but they also tend to create classrooms where students’ own cultural histories are acknowledged and appreciated. These teachers have high expectations for all students, reject deficit models of teaching and learning, and welcome families into school’s community and classroom.

As the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) enters the third year of its initiative to support and expand teacher education programs at MSIs, we are looking forward to October 2016 when we’ll have our National Convening on Success in Teacher Education at Minority Serving Institutions, where teacher educators and prospective teachers from MSIs around the country will share their models of success. With generous funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Educational Testing Service, CMSI has been doing collaborative research with teacher education programs at California State University, Fresno; Stone Child College; Jackson State University; and New Mexico State, Las Cruces. In addition, each of these schools was given a $50,000 capacity building grant from CMSI. With this money, these institutions have been developing new models of university-school partnerships, enriching student teaching and clinical practice, expanding coursework on cultural diversity and educational equity, working to align teaching practices with the Common Core, and helping prospective teachers to pass high-stakes exams which allow them to get their certification and begin teaching in high-needs schools.

Helping Minority Serving Institutions just might be the best way to address some of the worrisome surrounding minority teachers. All I can say is that, for me, my experience at this year’s AERA further confirmed this to be true.

Alice E. Ginsberg is Assistant Director for Research at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions. She also teaches urban education and teacher research in Penn’s Teach for America masters program.

Reflections on the ROI Convening: MSIs are worth the investment


Casey Boland

The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions recently released Investing in Student Success: The Return on Investment of Minority Serving Institutions. This report grew from the National MSI Return on Investment Convening held last December. The convening continued the conversation on how Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) educate and graduate substantial numbers of low-income and first-generation students of color. Within a heightened policy climate of accountability that emphasizes return on investment (ROI), MSIs now more than ever must learn to clearly convey their strengths and accomplishments. The ROI Convening was just one attempt to further this cause. Through research paper presentations, impact talks, and small working groups, the convening highlighted what makes MSIs a powerful force in the present and future of higher education. It also offered collaborative environments for contemplating and creating actionable plans of action for institutions to better serve their students and communities.

As a participant in the ROI convening, I observed several reoccurring themes throughout the presentations and discussions. What follows are my five key takeaways and recommendations. I think I speak on behalf on most in attendance that the event was a reminder of the vital work of MSIs and an incubator for future ideas on how to further their missions.

1) MSIs are worth the investment

Through an assortment of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, the paper presenters proved that MSIs are worth the investment:

  • In their paper assessing the impact of a federally funded learning community program at an AANAPISI community college, Cynthia Alcantar demonstrated that the program substantially boosted degree attainment, increased transfer to four-year institutions, and lessened students’ time to advance from developmental to college-level classes.
  • Ginger Stull and Stephanie Rainie addressed how MSIs need not subscribe to the common measures of success. They argued that institutions like TCUs promote atypical ROI measures arising from the institutions themselves rather than external forces. These characteristics include critical thinking, self-esteem, leadership, and community engagement. Though MSIs must be mindful of expectations (especially in terms of outside funding), Stull and Rainie raised the important point that MSIs must write their own narratives and avoid repeating verbatim the narrative of lawmakers and foundations driving specific agendas.
  • Toby Park and Stella Flores along with Terrell Strayhorn tackled the topic of workforce ROI. Park and Flores found that Latino graduates of HSIs have earnings comparable to Latinos from non-HSIs, after controlling for institutional selectivity. Meanwhile, Strayhorn demonstrated that HBCU graduates show positive returns on investment in occupational status and Black identity after controlling for institutional selectivity.

2) Who are the investors?

One participant asked: who are the investors? It’s a question we should ask ourselves whenever discussing the future mission of MSIs. MSIs rely on federal discretionary grant funding and state allocations. Several people spoke of the necessity of pressing policymakers to loosen the purse strings. Talk of finance leaned towards demanding our government leaders to boost state and federal funding. Indeed, state and federal funding has declined precipitously over the past two decades. Many states have nudged their appropriations somewhat. Yet state and federal funding will likely not return to prior high water marks. While policymakers must be kept aware of the importance of funding MSIs, relying solely on public appropriations is myopic. It avoids the thornier option of seeking alternative funding sources. Indeed, MSIs must continue to seek out federal research grants. More sustainable funding sources must be sought and nurtured, including development via alumni and relationships with local business and industry.

3) Understanding we’re not all “numbers people”

Based on participant discussions throughout the convening, many were skeptical of statistical analyses. I suspect there are two reasons for this: 1. Not everyone has taken statistics. The quantitative studies with regression models were likely lost on those who mistake degrees of freedom as a measure of a nation’s level of liberty. 2. Though they can and should be an instrument of good, data have been used as weapons against HBCUs and MSIs. We need look no further than the sadly routine media bashing of HBCUs as antiquated and ineffectual institutions. Given the widespread unfamiliarity with quantitative methods, the convening emphasized that presenters of statistical studies must make greater efforts to carefully define terminology and the overall context of their findings.

4) Importance of self-assessment

Conducting routine evaluation of federal grant-funded programs can reveal the real power of MSIs. The paper “The Return on Investment for an AANAPISI-Funded Program: Outcomes for Asian American and Pacific Islander Community College Students” provides an exemplary framework for conducting a rigorous assessment. Program evaluation offers MSIs a critical opportunity to rigorously suss out what works and what doesn’t. MSI students are not properly served by grant-funded projects that fail to support their needs and progress. While program evaluations signal the strengths of MSIs to policymakers, they also measure the efficacy of MSI programs in supporting their students.

5) We’re in this together

Despite a feeling of congeniality and mutual respect, there were moments of critical discussion. We in the academic and education and social justice communities welcome respectful critique and reasoned argument. Yet our conversations sometimes veer too far from the path of logical thought and action. Given the fiscal reality noted above, it is more important than ever for MSIs to combine forces. It serves no one when MSIs and the advocacy organizations that promote them compete with one another and carve out separate spheres of influences. One of the most important elements of MSIs is their rejection of traditional higher education competitive characteristics. We’re in this together. We persevere together and fail when divided.

Casey Boland is a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and a research assistant at the Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Count Me In: Valuing, Embracing and Affirming the Lives of Black Women in Higher Education


Ashley Hazelwood

“You just slammed my head to the ground. Do you not even care about that?” screamed 28 year-old Sandra Bland. The young Black woman was ripped out of her car on the way to her new job, slammed to the ground, and arrested as she screamed for help. Less than 72 hours later, she was found dead in her jail cell. Sandra’s offense? She failed to use the turn signal in order to change lanes.

Sandra Bland’s experience is not unique. It represents the fact of being a Black woman in the United States, where women like fifteen-year-old Dajerria Becton are slammed down and forcefully restrained by police because some believe Black kids should return to their “section 8 public housing.” It joins cases like the shooting of innocent bystander Rekia Boyd, a Black woman shot and killed by Officer Dante Servin who fired in Boyd’s direction thinking he saw a gun that actually turned out to be a cell phone.

Is being a Black woman unacceptable in the United States? And, as this blog post will address, what about the lives of Black women in higher education? What can we do to ensure these lives are protected, acknowledged, and supported?

As a Black woman pursuing a doctoral degree in higher education, I am most concerned with hastening the critical shift that must occur to drastically reform the paradigm of the Black women college experience. Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), specifically Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), are in a privileged position to respond to this challenge simply because they serve a large percentage of Black women in college. These institutions must capitalize on the valuable access they provide to Black women.

In order to fully embody the critical narrative of Black women, I took to interviewing and discussing these topics with senior level Black women administrators in higher education. What these women shared was extremely profound. While not an exhaustive list, the following points explore what I summate to be the major challenges facing Black women, while also suggesting critical steps MSIs might consider instituting in order to solve these issues.

The Right to Choose and Assign Value to Ourselves. Black women are often forced to choose amongst the most salient aspects of our identities—womanhood or Blackness. Oftentimes, these identities are pitted against one another. In spaces of higher education, Black women are pressured to assume one identity over the other by their peers, professors, or institutionalized policies and practices. Such environmental pressure neglects the fact that identity for Black women is intersectional and fluid. The feminist and social activist Gloria Jean Watkins, better known as Black-American author bell hooks, eloquently addresses this challenge in her classic piece Ain’t I A Woman: “Contemporary black women could not join together to fight for women’s rights because we did not see ‘womanhood’ as an important aspect of our identity. Racist, sexist socialization had conditioned us to devalue our femaleness and to regard race as the only relevant label of identification. In other words, we were asked to deny a part of ourselves—and we did.”

Dr. Kimberly Lowry, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Success at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas suggests that MSIs can create a safe space for Black women to be vulnerable but feel supported. The implementation of Sistah circles, mentor groups, learning communities and service learning projects were among many of the helpful support mechanisms offered by Dr. Lowry.

For Us, BY Us. Systemic change must occur to address the unjust policies and practices affecting Black women. These policies and practices must be turned on their heads and dismantled in order for transformative change to occur. One administrator interviewed for this project at Dillard University offered critical insight into the systematic changes that must be enacted in order to circumvent the en masse devaluation of the Black women. She explained, “In the past two Presidential elections, Black women led all demographic groups in voter turnout, while remaining underrepresented in elected offices. Shockingly, for 15 consecutive years not one Black woman has held a seat in the U.S. Senate. Black women should chant the Patrick Henry adage: “No Taxation without Representation.””

These comments demonstrate the importance of Black women being groomed for positions of political influence. MSIs should begin this process by establishing curriculums and learning experiences geared toward political careers. Dillard University has begun the transformation process by establishing a center dedicated to pre-law and public interest positions such as mayors, judges and prosecutors. At Dillard, the majority of students groomed to take advantage of the center’s political focus are women of color, many of whom are Black women. The promotion of such a center has empowered Black women to explore and pursue political career fields in which they have not traditionally been encouraged. Nonetheless, holding seats of political prominence can impact everlasting change for Black women.

It Takes More Than A Village. There are few to no campaigns, projects, or events that champion the needs of Black women at large. While there are small pockets of individuals doing this work there must be a greater national focus and attention given to Black women. Furthermore, in order for Black women to gain the leverage and support needed to succeed in college and abroad, there must be a network of allies established to push the cause forward. Latino men and women, white men and women, Black men, members of the LGBTQ community and many other constituents are desired and needed advocates.

In my discussion with Jade Perry, Coordinator of Multicultural Student Success at DePaul University and contributing writer for online/print platforms such as Heed Magazine and ForHarriet.com, she suggests college campuses need to be more proactive in advocating for Black women in academia. She says, “That might look like individual meetings with students. That might look like hosting programs and forums to talk about some of these pressing issues. That might look like education, training, and deeper collaboration with colleagues who are charged with campus safety. That might look like pushing the conversation forward on an administrative level. At the end of the day, institutions and individuals have to ask the question: What can I do from where I am?”

These approaches suggest that everyone can contribute to the solution by working to bring justice to Black women by establishing a sound commitment to the support of Black women within the various environments in which they reside.

Special Note: A sincere thank you to Black women everywhere as well as those who contributed greatly to the completion of this article. Without your voices and your truths, this piece would not have been possible. Special recognition goes out to Dr. Kimberly Lowry, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Success at Eastfield College, Dr. Lupita Rasheed, Director of Development at Richland College, Dr. Toby Jenkins, Assistant Professor of Higher Education at Georgia Southern University and Jade Perry, M.Ed, Coordinator of Multicultural Student Success at DePaul University.

Ashley Hazelwood is a doctoral student at the University of North Texas Graduate School of Education and a former summer intern at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Changing the Narrative About HBCUs’ Value Proposition


Robert T. Palmer

Larry Walker photo

Larry J. Walker


Charles J. Gibbs

During a town hall meeting at a Louisiana high school this past January, a student hailing from Southern University asked President Obama a question about the negative perception some students have regarding the value of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Although President Obama praised HBCUs for developing leaders, he lamented the challenges facing these venerable institutions. In particular, President Obama criticized HBCUs for having low graduation rates and allowing students to accumulate loan debt without attaining a degree. Fortunately, President Obama did contextualize his comments by noting that he understands that HBCUs are known for taking a chance on some students, but he mainly focused his attention on arguing that these institutions need to increase their graduation rates.

President Obama’s comments are problematic for a number of reasons, and some might say that it reflects his administration’s viewpoint toward HBCUs. Nevertheless, his assertions about HBCUs feed into a larger narrative about the relevancy or lack thereof about historically Black colleges. For example, many leading newspapers throughout the country have published articles belittling the value of HBCUs and indicating that they are outdated in a “post-racial” society. In fact, in a separate article co-written by one of the authors of this article (which is currently under review for publication) argues that HBCUs are the most celebrated as well as the most scrutinized institutions of higher education in America. The goal of this post is not to further perpetuate that view but to delineate the significance of these important institutions in the hopes that we can begin to change the dominant narrative about HBCUs.

While scores of research show that HBCUs have played an important role in helping Blacks advance into the middle class and were instrumental in developing leaders who played a critical role in the civil rights movements, evidence has also documented the value proposition of HBCUs. A strong body of scholarly evidence, for example, has shown that HBCUs facilitate the cognitive and psychological growth and development of Black students, particularly compared to predominantly White institutions (PWIs).

Results from a 2015 survey by Gallup-Purdue University illustrates this perfectly by indicating how Black students at HBCUs reported having more meaningful experiences than their non-HBCU counterparts. Not only did these students report having positive and supportive interactions with faculty and mentors, they also felt that their institutions prepared them well for life after college. In discussing the value relevance of HBCUs, it is important to note that historically Black universities are able to orchestrate such a powerful environment for Black students while being chronically underfunded compared to their PWI counterparts. This is a feat that should not only be acknowledged and perhaps celebrated by dignitaries, such as President Obama, but should also motivate policymakers to invest more financial resources into HBCUs.

In addition to providing an environment that helps to maximize students’ talent and wellness, the affordability of HBCUs, particularly public HBCUs, also illustrates their value proposition in today’s competitive higher education marketplace. Indeed, the affordability of HBCUs is one reason White students enroll in HBCUs, especially at the graduate level. Given that approximately 90% of students who attend HBCUs receive financial aid, HBCUs strive to keep their tuition affordable because they care deeply about student access and success.

Students that attend HBCUs are valued regardless of their socioeconomic background, race, or ethnicity. Moreover, HBCUs educate a higher percentage of first generation college students in comparison to PWIs. Without HBCUs, thousands of students would not have access to a quality college education. They encourage students from low- and moderate-income families to seek new challenges, including traveling abroad. Students that require additional academic support flourish because each institution is invested in their future. A student’s value is not based on whether they are a “legacy” but their ability to make a contribution to society.

HBCUs excel at recognizing “diamonds in the rough”—talented students forced to navigate underserved communities with limited resources. Students are more than a number at HBCUs and administrators, faculty, and staff members develop genuine relationships with them that continue after graduation. For this reason, their record of preparing students to compete in the global economy cannot be ignored.

HBCUs’ worth to students cannot always be quantified. For instance, throughout HBCUs’ history, they have encouraged students struggling to acclimate to a college environment to persevere despite academic and personal struggles. It’s important to look beyond HBCUs attrition rates. They enroll a high percentage of first generation, minority, and underserved students with limited financial support. In spite of the obstacles, HBCUs are adept at graduating students in high need areas including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Frequently, HBCUs’ long history of success is clouded by comparisons to larger well-funded PWIs. Policymakers cannot ignore the impact funding disparities have had on HBCUs’ ability to maintain their structural and technological infrastructures. We cannot forget that HBCUs, including land grant institutions, are still waiting for matching funds from states throughout the United States.

In spite of barriers, HBCUs continue to give students an opportunity to connect with peers from around the country that bring new and engaging ideas to campus. In the article “The Honorable Past and Uncertain future of the Nation’s HBCUs,” the authors note that students are drawn to HBCUs because they desire a learning environment in which their identity is appreciated and celebrated. HBCUs’ commitment to fostering an inclusive environment is consistent with democratic principles. This translates to students becoming change agents committed to national and international issues.

Dr. Robert T. Palmer is an associate professor of Student Affairs Administration at the State University of New York at Binghamton and an affiliate at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Larry J. Walker is a Research Fellow in the School of Graduate Studies at Morgan State University.

Charles J. Gibbs is a Doctoral Student in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, in the School of Education, at Howard University.