It’s amazing how individuals in administrative positions can easily turn a blind eye to a disaster waiting to happen. Since the infamous photo-op in the Oval Office and with many alumni screaming, “What were you thinking?” we sat back and watched as the presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) continued to stand their ground and appear hopeful that the Trump administration would show mercy to their institutions by providing financial support; assistance that is desperately needed to maintain the upkeep and repair of buildings, in addition to funding to continue their operations as places of higher learning. But on May 5, 2017, Trump confirmed what the rest of us already knew, that the education of minorities was not a priority for him or his administration. So now what? Reality is starting to set in and in no unspoken terms the leaders of HBCUs now clearly see that no one is coming to save them.
So how do HBCUs begin to tackle the pink elephant in the room? You know, the recurring issue of inadequate funding. Black institutions can take several active steps that could possibly resuscitate them from the catastrophic photo-op and their ongoing financial crisis:
- Start by developing a team, one that will be transparent and honest with administration, to carefully review all of the institutions financial records. Identify where the financial gaps are when it comes to funding, donations, grants and tuition.
- Secondly, based on the data retrieved from financial audits, devise a strategic action plan that outlines clear steps regarding what needs to be done, how it needs to be done and a deadline for each task to be completed. Actions may include allowing tenured faculty to retire and bringing in young, vibrant professors and administrative staff at lower salaries, increasing marketing efforts to non-Black and non-traditional students and fully utilizing online learning that will allow students to receive an education from a distance, regardless where they reside in the world.
- Third, generate a cash flow immediately. Sure, they can increase tuition, but many HBCUs do not utilize their Office of Development or Institutional Advancement, which focuses on fundraising efforts specifically for the institution. Instead, Black institutions will channel fundraising efforts through their alumni affairs offices, which only focuses on one particular sector of donors, while missing corporate sponsors and major grant opportunities.
- Lastly, HBCUs need to take an honest look at their leadership. Effective leadership entails looking at the university as an academic enterprise, an institution that is in the business of educating others. HBCU leaders must focus their efforts on generating and managing money and stop waiting on the federal government to come in and rescue them.
Yes, HBCUs have obstacles to overcome, with the biggest being limited financial resources. But insanity is doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results. It is time for the HBCU leaders to wake up and realize that the rules of the game have evolved and will continue to change. And if they intend to survive, they cannot continue to do business as it has been done in the past. They must stop waiting around for a hand out from the federal government that will never come.
Dr. Carey Yazeed is a Career Strategist and the author of Worth Fighting For: Revitalization of Social Work Education at Black Colleges.