Can HBCUs Compete?

Richard F. America, professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., offers strategies on how historically Black colleges and universities can compete in today’s world of higher education. JBHE invites readers to comment on Professor America’s proposals.

There is still some debate about whether racially identified higher education is necessary or desirable. But 100 schools exist, and the basic question is, can they compete?

In recent decades, several of these schools have emerged as selective, modern, well governed, and sustainable. They attract high quality applicants, produce well-educated and fully prepared graduates, and have faculty teaching at high levels and creating published scholarship that is recognized widely. But most HBCUs still struggle, require ongoing subsidies, and seem unable to improve sufficiently to raise their competitive standing.

Is there an approach that can ensure more than basic viability, and can lead to HBCUs that can compete with all other institutions similarly situated?  Can they rise in the rankings, rather than stagnate at low levels on the lowest tiers?

If HBCUs change in the right way, they can succeed. But they must want to change. As they change, they can attract corporate and alumni support and general public funding.

Strategic directors on Boards of Trustees and others can find new ways to think about their mission, and the basic function and positioning of HBCUs, in relation to similarly situated institutions.

HBCUs should:

  • Seek to rise in the rankings to the next highest tier by 2030.
  • Identify two “aspiration schools” in the next higher tier, and emulate them.
  • Understand their SWOT—strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
  • Identify the SWOT of the aspiration schools.
  • Select boards that have the same qualities as the boards of the aspiration schools.
  • Select presidents who have the same qualities as the presidents of  the aspiration schools, and pay her/him accordingly.
  • Regularly review cluster and value chain relationships, and strengthen them.
  • Select one department—economics, math, biology or chemistry would be good examples—and build a core of very strong faculty that can make it truly outstanding.
  • Establish strong student organizations and extracurricular programs that produce mature, thoughtful, polished professional women and men.
  • Establish standards for sororities and fraternities, and similar groups, that create an academic and service ethos, and end the era of the rap and hip-hop mentality.  These have been destructive and anti-intellectual forces on campuses.

When asked about the major challenges they face, too many HBCU leaders point to lack of  financial resources, first. Too few adequately address the central constraints of lack of compelling vision, failure to understand competitiveness threats, and lack of competitiveness. They tend to see the problem, overwhelmingly, as a lack of outside resources, rather than primarily poor strategic positioning and poor leadership.

The basic missions of the HBCUs are, first, addressing the educational needs of segments of the student market who need access to high quality education, often with some remedial attention, and, second, research and community and public service.

Benchmark and Emulate

Many HBCUs lack quality strategic thinking at the board policy level and lack high quality strategic leadership from presidents. HBCUs should identify two schools in the rankings at the tier above where they stand and use them as a benchmark. Adopt their best practices. Imitate their most successful policies and practices.

Between 2012  and 2030, the HBCUs will face increasing competitive challenges. They have to adapt and change. They have to come to see themselves as competitors in markets in which they previously had something of a monopoly. But they also have to compete for students and faculty in markets from which they were previously excluded.

HBCUs are part of a value chain. Most HBCUs draw most students from high schools that prepared them inadequately. Some of these HBCUs then add value, and pass the graduates on to employers, who place a higher or lower value on them than on other available candidates. If HBCUs can add greater recognized and actual value, and produce more mature, thoughtful, polished, and attractive graduates, they will come to enjoy advantages over other similarly situated competitors.

Likewise, most HBCUs are situated such that they could consciously operate as members of clusters. Universities as part of commercial clusters include, Stanford in Silicon Valley, MIT and Harvard in Boston, North Carolina State, Duke and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in the Research Triangle. In the latter case, for example, why are Saint Augustine’s College, in Raleigh, and North Carolina Central University, in Durham, not more engaged in that commercial cluster than they are? Obviously, they do not have the resources to do front rank technical research. They are not top-ranked research universities. But there can be beneficial relationships that take advantage of their location and produce mutual gains.

Some HBCUs are geographically isolated. But even they can use information technology to participate in clusters.  For them, and the others, heightened awareness of the clusters they are, or could be, in can enhance their future competitiveness. They must understand their role in those clusters, and the advantages that participation  conveys. And they must fully understand the competitive advantages of their location, history, programs, faculty, alumni networks, and funding bases. Most seem not to see their strategic situation clearly enough.

Competitive Advantage

Thinking of HBCUs explicitly in competitive terms may jar some supporters, faculty, administrators, and some donors who approach the giving function as a humanitarian calling. Professor Michael Porter’s innovations in thinking about competitiveness offer a basis for thinking about how to rise in the rankings.

Porter created several key tools that HBCUs can use to help them understand their situations more clearly. The Diamond, The Five Forces, Value Chain Analysis, Cluster Analysis, and the idea of Competitive Advantage.

The ‘Diamond’ can help them analyze their circumstances no matter where they are in the rankings. The Diamond was created to help corporations and sovereign nations develop economic and business policy. But we can apply it to colleges and universities. If an HBCU is weak on any competitive factor, it’s policy leaders can see where attention and resources must be focused.

Using five forces analysis can help determine how attractive the HBCUs will be to faculty, students and donors.  These market forces help set how much tuition the college can charge, how efficiently it can operate, and how much added financial resources it needs to move up in the rankings. HBCUs will gain competitive advantage according to how well they deliver quality education and related services.

HBCUs buy faculty and staff, and technology and equipment and supplies. And they manage institutional infrastructure. That includes the bursar, registrar, and other offices.  All of this adds value for students and for their eventual employers. But how much is this value added worth in starting salaries of graduates, and in other ways? Most HBCUs have not been comfortable thinking of themselves and their mission in these terms. Too many still express their mission only in softer terms. That can change as they look at their situation in more competitive terms.

HBCUs cannot expect to do what Tier 1 schools can do—charge premium tuition. But as they get better, they can earn more corporate and other donor and alumni support. This will be because of continuous improvement, rather than from obligation or sense of charity.

They can differentiate themselves, innovate, and educate by creating extra value that makes their graduates more attractive to employers than other similar schools in their tier. HBCUs can innovate and gain competitive advantage by finding better ways to teach, and especially to polish and transform. This is what Dr. Benjamin Mays understood and accomplished at Morehouse. An HBCU can be greater than the limits set by its resource constraints. That requires strategic leadership.

Doing a good job of understanding and managing the linked relationships with government, other colleges, businesses and other institutions, can be another basis for competitive advantage that can  help them rise in the rankings.

HBCUs can do better at continuously improving efficiency and reducing costs. Success in this can also be a basis for competitive advantage with other schools in the tier. HBCUs can achieve low costs in every function from public relations, alumni relations, faculty development, dormitory and dining hall management, and so on. They can compete by doing the best job in managing relations with food suppliers, and sources of equipment, as well. All this can help them move to the next higher tier.

Clusters are geographic concentrations of  businesses and institutions and government agencies. Clusters include suppliers, and customers. Both give feedback on what can be improved. The cluster also includes services, such as counselors, textbook, and student loan providers.

An HBCU’s cluster will include government, departments of education, and many other agencies, the United Negro College Fund, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the case of land grant universities, accrediting agencies, and scholarly and professional associations that train, educate, and support libraries, technology centers and so on. This kind of analysis of an HBCU’s cluster offers a way to grasp how the aspiration schools in the next higher tier do business so as to be able to better compete with them. Looking at the clusters they are part of will point to how the HBCU can better manage the linkages it has, and create new ones. The cluster can include other colleges, including other HBCUs, who compete and also collaborate with each other.

The HBCU and the other cluster members can achieve economies of scale in purchasing and in maintenance services. So a cluster gives the HBCU benefits that it would not achieve in isolation. Mapping the cluster, and continually updating it, can disclose potential beneficial relationships that could have been overlooked.

HBCUs can also use basic SWOT analysis. What are their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? For most the strengths are a few dedicated and committed faculty, who understand how to reach students who are poorly prepared for college, and how to inspire some of them to achieve to their full potential. Others may have one or two relatively strong departments that can be highlighted for consistent production of successful graduates.

But weaknesses will seem to overcome strengths for too many. Low quality faculty, except for a few stars, inadequate infrastructure and facilities, a weak financial base, poor alumni support, inadequate leadership, low enrollments, and unattractiveness to the pool of applicants desired are all weaknesses.

Opportunities include the possibility of innovations in selected areas of the curriculum and financial support from new partners, including corporate partners. Threats come from political weakness, loss of accreditation, and the growing attractiveness of White colleges for their applicants. The HBCUs are important institutions for their own sake. African Americans do not yet have many strong well-run institutions.  So, a new effective communications program that convinces millions of African Americans that they have an obligation to financially support these schools can pay dividends.  This requires a new framework, and a new way of thinking about the HBCUs—as competitive, rather than based on an appeal to compassion, such as in, “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”  That calls up pity.  That is not the strongest basis for securing real broad-based financial support.

Move Up in the Rankings

The objective should be to move up in the rankings. HBCUs can move up one full level by 2030. To move up in the rankings, each HBCU should, first, examine who is on the board of trustees of the aspiration schools in the next higher tier, and then redesign its own board so that it has a similar size and composition.

Next, each school should do the same with its president and number two academic officer. Look at the aspiration schools. Who is the president and academic vice president and then hire persons who are close to them in qualifications and experience, and charge them with moving up in the rankings.  That will require incentives and competitive compensation.  It will be the most important advantage and the key to gaining competitive advantage.

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  1. This is groundbreaking stuff. (in my sarcastic voice) Raise your hand if you are tired of folks who teach at and/or were educated at the Ivies and a few others thinking that they have all the answers for HBCUs.

  2. Not even worthy of an in depth response. If the good professor took this model to his Admissions Dean, his Provost or his President he’d be laughed straight off of the campus. Strive to increase your rankings. Are we suddenly giving some value to these ridiculous lists?! Of all the people I’ve heard support rankings, I have never heard a faculty member do so. EVER. I am shocked! Has he looked at the methodology?
    Any school that has an aspirant group probably has a president and a board of trustees and a management group that has thought about why these schools are aspirants…and why would they have such a list? Don’t faint professor, but most of our presidents have some sense of the process, are looking at best practices, are working hard to bring in the best board of trustees, faculty and staff, and have sophisticated strategic enrollment plans. And then the federal government changes the rules as to how to assess credit worthiness for Parent Plus Loans and some of us lose 20% of our returning and new students due to lack of access to critical funds. I don’t know about my colleagues, but none of my aspirant schools have 92% of their students on aid and more than 50% Pell eligible. Maybe I should try to start there in copying them and deny the poor students (that would certainly up my average ACT/SAT scores and give us a little “rankings” boost). We could also get more selective and finally we could take all of the dollars we give on a “need” basis and make mostly “merit” financial awards. Works for Georgetown I guess…but veers away from the mission of most of our HBCU’s. As the kids say … whatever.

    • Raise your hand if you are tired of HBCU faculty and ADMINISTRATORS making excuses for running chicken bone operations in 2012. You knew the condition of the students you were preparing to teach when you took the job. Stop crying and getting angry when someone makes a professional suggestion. Long lines, high tuition, ridiculous fees, bad facilities and a culture of cronyism that drive graduates away from writing checks to help others who come behind them. more tragic “Renee and “a”, HBCU graduates are not sending their children to HBCU at the same levels of previous generations. Therefore, you miss the point of the article. HBCUs must compete or CLOSE! We love our Universities and what they did for us but the education market has changed. So if you knew better you, you would do better. Stop throwing stones. At least he cared enough to get in the conversation. Or should we wait for UNCF or NAFEO to solve the problem?

      • My response was not about making excuses or crying…I simply wanted to point out the sad assumptions made by the professor and tne suggestion that HBCUs lower themselves to a strategy for achievement that most prominent colleges and universities eschew. I speak here, specifically, to tryng to achieve higher “rankings”. And what is meant by “high tuition and ridiculous fees”? Looking at the tuition for the number 1 HBCU (since we are looking at the rankings for benchmarks) their tuition is hardly at the level of other top liberal arts colleges in the South or otherwise…those above AND below it on the national (not just HBCU) ranking list.

  3. Dr. America makes an excellent recommendation regarding HBCU faculty. The standards regarding who should be hired as faculty at HBCUs should change. By and large, colleges are not for “teaching” but for the generation and transmission of knowledge. Thus, HBCU faculty should be hired on the basis of their intellectual prowess–whether or not they can produce knowledge in their discipline that leads to publication. Afterall, what makes the Harvard’s of the world famous, is not their students—but their brilliant faculty who contribute to, and change the terms of thought through the production of new knowledge.

  4. One problem is that all HBCUs are not the same. Just like Antioch College closed due to funding, tons of “schools” have financial problems. So my prediction is many HBCUs will and should close or merge and emerge as new models of success.

    Otherwise, African Americans are relegated to the current, very comfortable, role of asking permission from PWCU to provide programs, faculty and funding for African Americans. Some of us are very happy in that role.

  5. Florida A&M University – School of Business & Industry is one of the best “B” schools in the country. The Fortune 500 flock there to snap up outstanding graduates….(I know…many are my friends – FAMU ’86) and pay the companies BIG bucks to post their company logo on our business wall. It is filled…not too many spaces left the last time I checked! There CEOs attend forums, where they speak to undergrads and graduates on a “weekly” basis. Companies seek out graduates on the regular.

    For Dr. America to suggest HBCUs apply the SWOT analysis (a basic business tool) tells me he may be out of touch. He should not underestimate what we can do but I do admire his effort to suggest improvements. If you think it will help or be of some value to your institution, let Dr. America know.

    • Gwen… true about FAMU. I was there recruiting and hands down FAMU had the best Industry/University cluster of ANY college I recruited or mentored. The B school was world class with student run companies and freshmen in suits and resumes applying for those jobs. WORLD CLASS!! In fact, my experience there and Tenn. State converted me to be a passionate believer in HBCU education. And MOST African Americans should attend HBCUs, including MOST athletes. Unfortunately, TOO MANY of us will desire the Dukes and BYUs because the ice is colder there and goes better with our Brooks Brothers suit.

      • @Sappho….Thank you for recognizing the work of Dr. Sybil Mobley. She built SBI and it is solid.

        Dr. America grouped 103 HBCUs together and said he has the solution to our problem. Too bad he did not list what we do well.

    • Unfortunately Ms. Henderson, you may be speaking of the days of old. SBI hasn’t had a CEO of a Fortune 500 company at a forum in over a decade at least. Those same companies that once did send their CEO’s are now sending lower tier Vice Presidents and hiring coordinators for the most part. Those are the ones who are “speaking to undergrads and graduates weekly.” Dean Mobley was instrumental to the success you saw at FAMU, but has never been able to duplicate her same successes. If HBCU’s want to compete in modern times, they need to do one thing: Hire better. Mobley was a superior level employee. Those superior level employees usually tend to achieve superior level results.

      Too often, HBCU’s hire failed employees, faculty and staff and act as if they are something that they are not. It becomes a carousel of weak, only-about-the-check, lackluster individuals that are bringing about the demise of all HBCU’s and it’s starting at the top. There was a documentary called, “Waiting on Superman” that called this the “Lemon Walk.” Fail at one school and get hired or traded off to another. The nepotism is destroying the legacies of these schools because all the administrators care about is acquiring the same amount of money as their PWI counterparts, but do nothing in terms of acquiring the professional and institutional achievements of those same counterparts.

  6. The good prof. America presents an excellent “Think Tank” analysis of the many challenges facing HBCU’s. What is lacking in the conversation is real life experience with the employment world and the success of the products from these institutions. For more than 20 yrs. I have recruited, mentored, managed, fought the institutional bias toward HBCU’s, and followed the relative success of many HBCU graduates in a major technology company. They compete very favorably in every respect with hires from first-tier institutions. The proof is in the pudding.

  7. As an HBCU Alumnus (Alcorn ’10) and current Student Affairs staff member at an HBCU (NCCU), I agree with everything that the professor has suggested here in regards to creating better/realistic benchmarking standards and gaining a competitive edge.

    However, I do want to correct him and add that North Carolina Central University is taking advantage of it’s location in Durham, and DOES have a great relationship with the other schools in the Research Triangle Park (Duke, Carolina, NC State) We are now even considered a member school of the RTP and even share a library system with all 3 institutions.

    Additionally, I think the professor was a bit idealistic. While he does mention the HBUCs that are doing well, never mentions historical nor contemporary systematic disadvantages that have traditionally kept many HBCUs from gaining these competitive advantages (i.e. Jim Crow, current underfuding of public HBCUs from state government).

    While he is an expert on business, I think he failed to elaborate on how difficult it would be to make such progressive changes at these institutions that are generally themselves socially and fiscally conservative, in addition to the majority being located in conservative leaning states.

    Whether HBCUs can compete or not will not just be determined with a fool-proof strategic business plan. It must also be answered by current students, faculy & staff, administrator, and alumni–as well as the surrounding communities that they serve.

      • I agree. His suggestions are rudiment at best. He forgot about this little tools called a PESTLE Analysis. I am a HBCU grad with a Masters in Management for Boston University. First, the political nature and economic constraints of HBCU impede many of his suggestions. Ironically, I do not disagree with most of his rhetoric,however, it is not as simple as he declares.


  8. I agree with parts of this analysis, but I would also like to say that these observations are applicable to a large number of schools, not just HBCU’s but some of the less wealthy PWI’s.

    Second, as deep as America’s analysis digs, it harbors the tragic misrepresentation of lumping all HBCU’s into one bucket. As with White schools, they all are not under duress or have less than stellar faculties. America, have you ever taken a course or set of courses at an HBCU?

    Third, it’s great to make these observations from the outside looking in, but has America taught at an HBCU? When you have the massive budgets of Penn State, Harvard, and Georgetown, it’s very easy to look down upon institutions that have graduated some of our nation’s finest. Again, I do applaud the analysis, but I challenge you to consider applying for a job at Hampton or Howard or some other HBCU. You may be pleasantly surprised to see that the faculties have top degrees and teach in the classroom, not just perform research and leave the teaching to TA’s as some of the large PWI’s (Penn State) tend to do (I’ve graduated from both an HBCU and a PWI).

    Mr. America, sir, I challenge you to take a look at Hampton, Howard, Morehouse, Spelman, FAMU, North Carolina A&T, and Tuskegee Universities. These places are easily as good as any PWI, in fact, though they are HBCU’s, a great number of Whites, Latino’s, Asians, and other cultures attend these schools. These people know and understand quality and thus, they are getting great jobs and into America’s premier graduate programs.

    Do your research on how many students from these schools attend and graduate from the nation’s premier medical, law, business, and engineering programs. I find these facts amazing. As a grad of NC A&T, I look at my alumni directory and see Blacks that have been attending top graduate schools since the 50’s, back when we were not allowed to attend Penn State. I’m floored. Please take a look at Hampton’s website, the Biology and Chemistry alumni pages. Nearly everyone is at a place ranked as high or higher than Georgetown. For crying out loud, this school has agreements with 4 medicals and UPenn’s Biodental program!

    In summary, despite the lower budgets, not having the facilities of Georgetown, despite enduring a number of historic injustices, just like Black people as a whole, these schools have nourished and flourished generations. Can they compete?? They have been competing with less since their inception and doing just fine.

  9. I’m not by any means a business or education expert, but I attended an HBCU and left after two years. I had a great social experience, but I always had the nagging feeling that I wasn’t being prepared for that jungle that is the work world. Even though I have fond memories of my HBCU, life has proven to me that I may have been right.

    I applaud Dr. America for being brave enough to address the issue; his article will likely prompt a lot of emotional responses. But, in my opinion, HBCUs clearly have a problem, and a solid business strategy seems to me the most effective way to approach it. Yes, there are many successful HBCU graduates, and yes there are many HBCUs that have done very well and are headed in the right direction. But many, maybe the majority, are struggling, and could benefit from some of the article’s suggestions. What’s the incentive for good black students to go there when they can get into a good white school that offers brighter employment prospects upon graduation? What’s the incentive for field experts and renown academics to teach there? If these issues aren’t addressed, our HBCUs will get swallowed by the competition. We all appreciate and value our own education, but for the schools and administrators it is still a business. Businesses can and will fail if they don’t respond intelligently to market forces. Maybe Dr. America’s analysis isn’t the silver bullet, but it ain’t a bad start….

    • We have each had different experiences at our repsective HBCU. Yet, I will agree, that this analysis is not perfect but worth a SHOT (not a start). This isn’t the first time a strategic business plan has been suggested. Each HBCU and PWI has a strategic plan with all of these suggestions included within them.

    • Question, which HBCU were you attending? Again, as with PWI’s, not all HBCU’s are equal. Yet, I bet whatever HBCU you attended (if it’s accredited), people are working in their fields and/or have attended graduate school. This is more or less the reason people go to any college…

      I do agree that many are struggling and could use a great deal of what America laid out in his vision. I would even go so far as to say that some HBCU’s probably NEED to close, especially if they are not accredited in all of their majors.

      I’d like to make a few observations here:
      1 – I have met very few (if any) HBCU graduates, especially from the schools that I’ve mentioned sitting around twiddling their thumbs and awaiting a job or admission into graduate school, especially if they’ve graduated with a 3.0 or better.

      2 – I have not seen African-American’s that have attended White schools ascend to the top echelons of corporate America in any greater numbers because of the name of their school. Take a look at the executive management suites of the Fortune 500 companies (online), and to this day, despite most African-American’s today actually graduating from PWI’s, I don’t see these people consistently breaking more ceilings than anyone else. From this observation, I ask where is the competitive advantage, especially for the Blacks from HBCU’s that go on to attend a good graduate school (almost a necessity from either a PWI or HBCU after a Bachelors)?

      3 – Largely today, it’s not so much about the name of your school, but the chosen major when it comes to jobs. Companies value Engineering, Accounting, Finance, Computer Science, Mathematics, Business Administration, and other majors in which students can show immediate value. The HBCU’s that I’ve mentioned have outstanding relationships with both corporate America and Government. I ask anyone to take a look at the places that recruit Hampton, Howard, A&T, FAMU, and Tuskegee grads (many others as well). You’ll find Google, NASA, Microsoft, Apple, and many others, especially if they are majoring in one of the fields that I’ve mentioned above. As a note, very few places (if any) are willing to pay you more money because you attended Penn State of NC A&T State or Northwestern over Hampton. The only cases in which I’ve seen this are the few rare places that only hire people from Harvard, Dartmouth, Penn, etc. Even here, graduates from many PWI’s let alone HBCU’s can’t get a foot in the door due to the lack of pedigree.

      4 – From what I’ve seen, after a couple of jobs (max), people could care less where you went to school. They’re interested in your character, work-ethic, and what you bring to the table and the bottom-line. This is a serious issue for two reasons. First, kids need to understand that wherever they attend college, the name fades quickly if they do not perform and produce. Two, chasing a name might incur serious debt which is tragic if you don’t major in something that offers an immediate ROI (Business, CS, Engineering). I’ve seen so many kids attend an expensive PWI majoring in Psychology and they’re left with tremendous debt and no job. Please do your research and do not be fooled with big names. If you go for the big name, please major in and graduate with something that will get you a job.

      In summary, if people from the HBCU’s were not prepared, then it behooves me how they’ve gotten great jobs and attended top graduate programs (over several decades). As an A&T Computer Science graduate, I’ve always had a great job and enjoyed great flexibility in my career. Over my nearly 20 years out of college, I cannot think of one person from any HBCU within the aforementioned majors having any problems whatsoever. In fact, most Aggies I know even in a bad economy have enjoyed multiple job offers in these majors.
      Kids, please don’t assume choosing a school just because it’s a White college will automatically get you a great job or special treatment. I’m here to tell that it will not. The reality is that wherever you go, you must do well, have a strong work ethic, and be of great character plus trustworthy. Also, please make a concerted effort to avoid severe debt. Knowing what I know at this point, after almost 2 graduate degrees (brick n mortar schools all the way), and a wife whom graduated from both Hampton and George Washington – there’s no way you could convince me to choose an expensive place such as Georgetown (55k/yr) over Hampton (30k/yr) unless I was given a full ride. The debt is not worth it!


  10. First, the social life at HBCU’s is great and it should be. However, no one should use this as a rationale for having a lack of maturity and focus. The social life is just as vibrant at PWI’s.

    Nonetheless, please know that I am an ardent supporter of HBCU’s and an even stronger advocate for education in general. I am a proud graduate of Hampton University and George Washington University. My wife is a graduate of Virginia State University and has studied at the Yale School of Management and my daughter currently attends Spelman College.

    I’m just going to be straight forward. Why do we as black people always have to buy into this psuedo-social assimilation mind-set that says in order for you to be successful or to be competitive you MUST attend a PWI.

    First and foremost, the value that is gained from any educational experience is largely the responsibility of the individual. I have seen classic underachievers at HBCU’s and PWI’s. In my mind, for an individual to feel that he/she was ill-prepared by an institution of higher learning to deal with the professional world says more about the individual than that the institution. We are accountable for our own learning experiences. If you are going to struggle – you are going to struggle anywhere.

    My experience with HBCU’s is that they go above and beyond to prepare you for the world that awaits. You are constantly reminded that you must be 2 and 3 times better than the next person. This includes your knowledge base, your experiences, your presentation and preparation.
    HBCU’s are just like PWI’s, if you pick the right school for the right reasons your preparation for graduate school and the professional world will be second to none. Ask the graduates of North Carolina A & T, which by the way has produced the most minority engineers over the past three decades. Ask the Howard, Morehouse or Hampton graduates. And let’s not forget the Spelman women.

    It is actually Darwinistic in nature and that’s why you see some institutions still standing strong and competitive. Unfortunately, many HBCU’s, both private and state, have been unable to adjust to a rapidly changing world. The vast majority of these schools have also not been the beneficiaries of the same levels of state/federal investment that have been given to their PWI counterparts. I will use the Commonwealth of Virginia as a prime and indisputable example. I encourage you to take the time to research the disparity in funding for George Mason, James Madison, Old Dominion, Virginia Commonwealth, Christopher Newport versus that provided to the other state funded HBCU’s such as Virginia State University and Norfolk State University.

    I agree that HBCU’s definitely could benefit from strong/aggressive research and business plans, but part of that begins with the amount of underlying support that is provided from the state and federal government. The strongest have been able to continually attract the best instructors, have developed public/private partnerships and have been able to secure research funding. I offer Hampton University as an example of this. Not only does it have an endowment that rivals Harvard, but it also has partnerships too numerous to express that are graduate, public, private and professional.

    Also, has anyone been to a job fair at a HBCU lately? I will give you a clue. When your top tier companies recruit for the best minority talent exactly where do you think they go? Ask Deloitte? Ask Ernst & Young? Ask Booz-Allen?

    Milo Alonzo Howard
    DCPS Student Placement Office

  11. My opinion, as a student who doesn’t and most likely won’t attend an HBCU, is just get more stringent with the students they accept. There are students who wouldn’t apply but market to them anyway.

    • Darrell-

      I wish you the very best wherever you decide to attend college. I ask that you consider doing more analysis and study in an attempt to understand that when make statements such as “they”, you’re limiting all of these universities into one pot. There are some HBCU’s in which you might be hard pressed to receive an acceptance, others are less stringent (as with TWI’s).

      If you decide to study and understand all schools, both White and Black for what they have to offer, you’ll realize that as with TWI’s, HBCU’s are highly variant from school to school.

      Take Care,
      Chris Cobb

  12. I agree with the statements made in this article. I strongly believe in the last two bullet points about what HBCU’s need to do to increase their academic standards. I used an excerpt of the points talking about fraternities/sororities and Hip-Hop mentality on my blog.

    As a member of an organization and an advocate for Hip-Hop music I find these to be valid points on how the academic status of HBCU’s are impacted highly by these two extremes. Read more on my statements and response to the article on my website.

    -Byron F.

  13. The article is why are HBCUs to an employer?

    A black professor Roland G. Fryer Jr. at Harvard suggested black students should attend PWI over HBCUs because of the wage gap, and educational gaps. The research I have conducted suggested that there is big racial gaps between HBCUs and PWIs.

    *Racial gaps in graduation rates between minority studetns and whites.

    *Wage gaps

    *black students do better social, academically, and have access to black professors to empathize with.

    *Persistence of Racial Incidents at PWIs

    • PWI…? I’ve been to many college campuses……..and especially in California I’ve never seen a state university or community college that is PWI

  14. There are so many things wrong with thee existence of HBCUs. Where do I start?
    HBCUs are struggling financially all over this country. Yet they keep standing strong on principle with a model that is not working very well. As a whole, they are separate but not equal. And if they are not equal, they are not adequately preparing young African American students to compete in this global society. They are largely overpriced and causing students to go into 6 figure debt before they ever get a job that will attack that debt. It is only a matter of time before the form and structure of the private HBCU will and must change. Integration builds adaptation to diversity and integration has been proven to work better that the original plan of HBCU segregation or the modern day plan of HBCU separation. Private HBCUs want know accountability nor oversight. And that is exactly what destroyed Morris Brown

  15. What’s sad is that we African Americans are still calling ourselves BLACK because Caucasian oppressors called us that to contrast their color and to assign to us all the negative things BLACK is equated with in the dictionary. The fact is, like it or not and believe it or not, YOU ARE BROWN and your car tires are black. You can say black is a culture but when they deal with you, they deal with you based on it’s definition – dismal, gloomy, dark, diabolical, treacherous, devoid of light.

    WAKE UP AFRICAN AMERICANS. We do not call the Asian yellow man because he would not stand for it. We do not call the Native American a red man because he would not stand for it. We do not call the Hispanic man a brown man because he would not stand for it. And many Africans, Haitians and Jamaicans do not accept being called a color they know they are NOT.

    Ironically, African Americans are the only ethnic group/race on the planet which allows ourselves to be called a color we are not, allowing ourselves to be defined by color, by someone else and to allow ourselves to be attached to a color we are not – a color they filled with negative denotations. Then we fight to help keep the lie in place. Is it any wonder that cops treat us as BLACK people by the definition of dismal, gloomy, treacherous, evil etc?

    We will never rise and overcome as a people if we allow other groups to define us, to define us with a lie and we are sadly willing to help them. AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES MATTER PEOPLE. Black is the color of my car tires, not my skin. I am a family and relationship counselor who specializes in deprogramming African Americans from slavery mindsets.

  16. All HBCUs are not the same. To have a discussion of this type w/o acknowledging that fact is inexcusable for a scholar. Not sure its arrogance, or just ignorance.

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