Saturday, October 25, 2014

An Open Letter to HBCU Graduates


An Open Letter to HBCU Graduates

Charlie Nelms, Ed.D.
Higher Education Expert and Consultant

Dear HBCU graduates,
Although most of us have never met, we share a special bond as graduates of one of America's historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). With few exceptions, these are the places that sprouted from sweat-soaked seeds planted by the sons and daughters of former slaves, sharecroppers and subsistence farmers whose belief in the power of education confounded the plans of plantation owners, straw bosses and Southern white politicians. HBCUs were the places that accepted us because they wanted to serve us, not because they were forced to do so or wanted to "diversify" their enrollment. They welcomed us with open arms and did not need to establish black culture centers or persuade faculty and staff to accept or embrace us. HBCUs never characterized us as high-risk or academically or culturally disadvantaged; they chose instead to focus on our assets. Thankfully, we were the reason that HBCUs existed and not a special project on diversity and inclusion. Most of us would agree that our alma mater enveloped us in a culture of caring from which it was nearly impossible to escape. As a consequence, we developed the intellectual, social and leadership skills that allowed us to compete with anyone in the world. All of this HBCUs did with only a fraction of the fiscal resources available to predominately white universities (PWIs).
I am sure you must have read by now that HBCUs are at a major crossroads. Enrollment is declining, in part because of increased competition from PWIs, online universities, proprietary schools and community colleges. In fact, according to the Oct. 9, 2014, edition of Diverse Issues in Higher Education, the University of Phoenix Online Campus is the largest producer of African-American recipients of bachelor's degrees in all disciplines. In addition, leadership and fiscal instability, problems with accreditation and growing discord between presidents and boards of trustees are affecting even the strongest HBCUs. In all fairness, I must note that many of these same challenges afflict PWIs as well. The difference, in my view, is the fact that failure at HBCUs has disproportionate implications for African-American students, families and the communities in which they are located. The failure of HBCUs is not an option; we have too much riding on them to let that happen.
Fellow HBCU graduates, we can and must come to the aid of our institutions while there is still time to make a difference. Fiscal insolvency and the loss of accreditation are two insurmountable challenges from which I have not known any institution, HBCU or PWI, to recover. What follows are some concrete steps we can and must take to support HBCUs.
1.      We must stop complaining about the imperfections of HBCUs and fretting about the few things that didn't go as well as we would have liked when we were students. There are neither perfect schools nor perfect people.
2.     We must be willing to serve as ambassadors for our alma mater by referring prospective students, including our own children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends, to the admissions office. We shouldn't be persuaded solely by the size of a PWI scholarship or its marketing prowess when making a student referral. The ice at PWIs really isn't any colder than it is at an HBCU! In fact, many black students who initially attend PWIs end up graduating from HBCUs.
3.     We must be willing to share with our alma mater our expertise -- without charge. That expertise is just as diverse as the careers that we have, or have had, and can be used to improve curricular offerings, university operations, and marketing and facilitate job placement for graduating students, among other things.
4.     We must be willing to provide access to our vast network of people, programs and services that will allow our alma mater to achieve levels of excellence and responsiveness not otherwise possible. By activating our collective networks, we can do more than imaginable to strengthen HBCUs and enhance their competitiveness. The soul singer Jerry Butler was correct when he proclaimed, "Only the strong survive."
5.     We must be willing to invest our money in the places that produced us, and we must be committed to doing so every month of every year. I never quite understood how HBCU alums expected their alma mater to achieve and sustain excellence without money! Have you ever noticed that there are no poor schools on the U.S. News and World Report's national rankings of excellent schools? Many years ago, to emphasize the importance of investing in what we value, my friend and pastor, the late Dr. Robert Lowery, reminded his parishioners that life is like a bank account: "You can't make a draw unless you make a deposit." Unless we as alums make a deposit (invest), our alma mater cannot offer competitive scholarships, purchase state-of-the-art equipment, hire top professors, or offer study-abroad opportunities for students, among other things.
During the course of my long career in the academy, I made a lot of speeches and listened to even more. There are two comments that I vividly remember from the many speeches I've heard. The first came from the late Dr. Elias Blake, who served as president of Clark College. He opined that HBCUs succeed in educating low-wealth, less-well-prepared students because they provide a psychologically supportive environment. The second comment came from Dr. Patrick Swygert, who served for a decade as president of Howard University. He noted that there is a difference between a graduate of a university and an alumnus. A graduate is one who simply holds a degree from the institution, while an alumnus is one who holds a degree and is invested in the institution's success and well-being. All of us who profess to love our alma mater should ask ourselves, "Am I a graduate or an alumnus?"
In future blog posts, I will discuss in greater detail what HBCU alums can do in each of the five areas referenced above. Meanwhile, we can all demonstrate our support for HBCUs by referring at least three prospective students to our alma mater or another HBCU for 2015 admission. One final piece of advice: Refer students -- without regard to race, sex or sexual orientation -- who are academically prepared and can benefit from the opportunity to study in an environment where caring still matters.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September 21 through September 27 is National Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Week

President Barack Obama proclaims September 21 through September 27 as National Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Week. The week highlights the legacies, missions and need to support HBCUs along with the National HBCU Conference taking place in Washington, D.C.

In his proclamation, the President said HBCUs waged the war against illiteracy for newly freed slaves in their early years after the Civil War. He said the week honors the importance of HBCUs and their mission that everyone deserves a chance to succeed.

“Over more than 150 years, HBCUs have provided students with the tools to meet the challenges of a changing world,” Obama said. “These institutions are hubs of opportunity that lift up Americans and instill in their students a sense of who they are and what they can become. Their campuses are engines of economic growth and community service and proven ladders of intergenerational advancement.”

The President also said that his administration is fighting to make college more affordable with larger grants and low-interest loans. The administration is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in HBCUs, and because half of all students at these schools are the first in their family to attend college, they are supporting programs that help these first-generation scholars succeed.

The goal is for the nation to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

“During National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week, we recognize the ways these schools have made our Nation more just and we continue our work to make higher education accessible to every child in America,” Obama said.

On Monday and Tuesday, the 2014 National HBCU Conference is being held in Washington with the theme “HBCUs: Innovators For Future Success,” focusing on innovative and transformative educational approaches to ensure access to the American dream.

The two-day conference brings together HBCU presidents, senior administrators and other HBCU stakeholders to meet and interact with senior federal officials, representatives from the private sector and foundations in order to meet the evolving challenges in higher education.

Monday, September 22, 2014


Published On September 21, 2014 | By maria | Financial News, Latest posts

Clark Atlanta University is suing the city of Atlanta for acquiring land that was given to Morris Brown College instead of reverting it back to the university.
Reported by Nigel Boys

Over two years after filing in federal bankruptcy court in 2012, Morris Brown College, in Atlanta, GA, was given the go-ahead to sell the school’s property for $14.6 million to Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development authority, and Friendship Baptist Church. The school had no other alternative since it faced debts amounting to over $30 million.

However, although the sale of the property was authorized by the courts in June this year and the deal was finalized in August, Clark Atlanta University (CAU) has filed a lawsuit against the city because they believe the land should have reverted back to them.

The university filed the lawsuit on September 5 in Fulton County Superior Court, claiming that the sale of the school’s property violates an old agreement with Morris Brown, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). The suit claims that the property should have been returned to the university in the event that it was no longer used for educational purposes.

Clark Atlanta will continue to support the use of the property as an educational institution, according to AJC. It has invited the city to discuss with them the possibility of ensuring that it provides an educational opportunity to those who were historically denied that opportunity, namely the African-American community.

If CAU fails to come to an agreement with the Mayor of Atlanta, Kaseem Reid, they have been given the permission by the bankruptcy judge to pursue litigation in state court to determine its interests in the land previously occupied by Morris Brown College.

There has been no comment from Mayor Reid’s office on the pending litigation or the plan they have for the land in the foreseeable future.
However, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Friendship Baptist Church recently announced their plans to develop about 22 acres near the new Atlanta Falcons stadium, including land that was formerly owned by Morris Brown College.


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