For those with a stake in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), they are aware of troubling issues facing the institutions, and school presidents dedicated to the cause are speaking out on how to overcome those challenges.
Ronald Johnson, president of Clark Atlanta University, said the difference starts with correcting those that speak out of turn.
“We’ve got to tell our own stories. We know our value,” Johnson said. “There are students from the Middle East who I’ve spoke to and they said they wish they had gone to an HBCU, because at the other schools they felt like they had to look over their shoulders, but at Clark Atlanta it feels like family.”
Julianne Malveaux, former president of Bennett College, reiterated that familial environments isn’t lacking on HBCU campuses, but education over entrepreneurship is.
“The structure of the labor market is changing,” Malveaux said. “In order to deal with the employment gap, we need more entrepreneurs. Ninety percent of our businesses are sole proprietorships, so that means it’s the business owners’ lifestyle, they don’t employ a lot of people. … One of the key challenges we’re facing is we have placed an emphasis on education and not entrepreneurship.”
Malveaux contended that as ownership increases among graduates, so will alumni giving.
A few years ago, Wayne Frederick, then the interim president of Howard University, said that one of the reasons for the lack of alumni giving is the enormous debt students leave school with. Plain and simple, they cannot afford to give, he said.
But actor and TV personality Terrence J, a North Carolina A&T State University alumnus and special guest on a related panel — “HBCUs: The Past, The Present, The Future” — during the Congressional Black Caucus’s Annual Legislative Conference on Friday, Sept. 16, said that anyone can afford to give.
“As alumni it is very easy to give back,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how much it is. Give a dollar if you can’t give $10.”
One possible reason floated for lack of alumni giving was an absence of knowledge about where the funds are going.
“We must connect the dots and allow transparency between the schools and alumni,” said Jimmy Jenkins, president of Livingstone College. “There is a lot of miscommunication that can be corrected, alumni should be in the loop as to where the money is going.”
Congresswoman Alma Adams, representing the 12th district of North Carolina, brought the esteemed panel together to discuss improving HBCUs because of its special impact on her life.
“I wasn’t prepared for college,” Adams said. “I was from a poor neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, but a school named North Carolina A&T took me in. That enabled me to go to Ohio State University to get my Ph.D. I could not have gotten my Ph.D. if it weren’t for A&T.”