by George E. Curry
NASHVILLE (NNPA) – The presidents of Tennessee State University and American Baptist, both of whom are now heading their alma mater, and the dean at Meharry Medical College, a graduate of Howard University – said they are proof that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played and continue to play a unique role in America.
The three – Glenda Baskin Glover, president of Tennessee State University; Forrest E. Harris, Sr., president of American Baptist College and Dr. Charles P. Mouton, dean of Meharry’s School of Medicine – shared their experiences last Thursday on a panel at the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s annual convention here.
“My achievements and accomplishments, I owe to Tennessee State University and I proudly acknowledge what Tennessee State has done for me and my life,” said Glover, who earned her bachelor’s degree in math at TSU before earning her MBA, CPA and Ph.D at other institutions. “There is no greater calling than when God calls you back home.”
Forrest Harris did his undergraduate work at Knoxville College in Tennessee before earning a Bachelor of Theology degree from American Baptist College in Nashville and a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Vanderbilt University Divinity School, where he continues to teach.
“The Historically Black Colleges and Universities are institutions that represent our heritage and they have sustained us and anchored us in the progress we’ve made in this nation,” Harris said.
Mouton, who earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering and his medical degree from Howard University, said:
“When you have many of our young people who come to college, both undergraduate and professional schools, they need a place where they can feel at home, where they can expand their minds and develop the scholarly pursuits that we expect them to engage in and not have to deal with judgments, prejudice and the outside things that affect their ability to learn and be successful.”
Mouton said that’s the value of HBCUs. In addition to attending Howard University, Mouton also earned two master’s degrees from Harvard University School of Public Health.
Harris said Black colleges, like the Black Press, play a unique role in our community.
He said American Baptist places an emphasis on Christian social activism and moral leadership.
“The next generation has to be prepared to lead our communities in social transformation.”
And Black colleges should be among the strongest supporters of the Black Press, according to TSU President Glover.
“HBCUS have a responsibility to support the Black Press –it’s just that simple,” said Glover, who assumed her job in January.” One day I was thumbing through the paper and there was an entire 100-day report [sent out by the university] published in the Tennessee Tribune free of charge, “she recalled. “So, I called up when I saw that and said, ‘We want to advertise.’ I guess it took that for me to realize that it cost money to do that.”
Each panelist talked about how changes to Parents Plus loans, which were made abruptly and Pell grants had been especially hurtful for HBCUs.
“The Parent Plus loans provisions have drastically affected HBCUs in that they have tightened the credit requirements for families,” Glover said. “That has really hurt HBCUs. It has hurt Tennessee State to the tune of $1.5 million in loans.”
She said another change that will hurt Black state colleges in Tennessee is a switch in the funding formula that is based on graduation rates rather than enrollment.
Despite these and other challenges, the educators said, Black colleges, which represent only 3 percent of colleges but produce almost a quarter of all Black graduates, are vital to America’s future.
Mouton said. “The institutions [HBCUs] are strong, the institutions are turning out good products and continue to do their job.”