HBCU Later?

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I’ve written before about going to an Historically Black College/University (specifically Howard University, the best HBCU there is) (In addition to FAMU (Mahogs). But today I write about it not to brag, but to light a fire (Thanks to Thai for handing me the match).
President Obama’s budget cuts $85 million of funding that the federal government has allotted to HBCUs in the past. According to BET.com, White House officials said, “Discretionary funding programs for HBCUs, both undergrad and graduate, received 5% more than twice the rate of inflation. The budget doubled subsidy in the HBCU capital financing program and will more than double the total loan volume.” Yeah, okay. Estimates have found that there will still be a shortfall of $73 million.

This after Seth Harp, a Georgia State Senator and chair of the state’s Higher Education Committee, proposed last December that he could “save” HBCUs (namely Savannah State and Albany State) by combining them with “majority” schools (Armstrong Atlantic State and Darton College, respectively).

Of course this isn’t the first time HBCUs have been under fire, but it is the first time I’ve ever felt the urge to do whip out my debit card to keep their doors open. Why? Probably because I’m not the richest graduate in the world. I have two degrees (I went to NYU for grad school), but I still don’t make as much money as those School of Business cats who were shipped off to Chase and Goldman [Sachs] directly after commencement. And I’m okay with that; I do what I do because it makes me happy, not because it pads my bank account. That said, I always thought of donating to my alma mater as something I could only afford to do with disposable income. So I’ve only contributed directly to HU once, and gone to a few UNCF fundraising dinners on someone else’s dime. It never really felt like the little bit I had to offer would make a difference.

But I know what can make a difference: Each of us who benefited from one of these institutions—whether you loved it or not (you got a job, didn’t you?), whether it was your own education or that of your parent’s or that of the smart folks you work with—giving a little. Remember all those little $20 and $30 contributions you made to Obama’s campaign last year? This year, send that money directly to one of the schools on this list, or give it to the United Negro College Fund and let them send it where it’s most needed. You’ll feel good knowing you helped a school that stepped in to support promising African Americans when other universities wouldn’t. Though HBCUs represent only 3% of all higher education institutions in the United States, a full 20% of the Black folks you know with degrees earned them from HBCUs. Word.

Yes, Black folks can go to other universities, but being the only Black girl in most of my classes at NYU and not having a single teacher who could understand and teach to the unique challenges of being a woman of color in this industry, I can tell you that the experience is incomparable. I came into my own at a university that encouraged me to be me, to research themes that relate to the part of me that can’t afford to be colorblind. The part that had a name my white professors stumbled and eventually skipped over (adopting the distinctly-European “Miss Rankin” instead). The part of me that appreciates the significance of Black people educating themselves. The part of me that understands the importance of giving back. The part of me that is completely comfortable writing these words for the world to see, because they are a part of my truth.

And so, if that part of you has been touched by one of these institutions, please take a minute to donate: your time, your money, your expertise. Let’s make sure someone will be there to nurture that part of our children.

Got an HBCU testimony? Lay it on me!


If you like Kenrya’s opinion, check out the rest of her posts here.

Last 5 posts by kenrya

  • Sportie

    We struggle with this all the time (I’m a member of the HUACNYC) and I’ve really come to the conclusion that people don’t get it. Even after you leave you have to give back. Thanks for posting this.

  • Nea

    I totally agree with you. I too have said that I will wait until I have more disposable income before I give back to my HBCU (Bison stand up) but I do realize that the importance of giving back now. I absolutely LOVED my HBCU experience and I have very strong opinions on the black college experience. Sadly, I do feel that most of the HBCUs around today will not be standing 20 years from now..but that is another topic for another day. Thanks for this post!

  • @ Sportie: Ditto! We need reminders like this. Black folks gotta start supporting HBCUs like the Jews support Brandeis. And not just Spelman and Howard either. Obama can’t and won’t be our end all, be all savior and we can all do a better job of helping out those schools that took us in when no one else would.

  • Fatimah

    In Toronto, Canada we don’t have HBCU’s, but I did go to York University which is the “unofficial” black University with the highest number of black students and professors in the province of Ontario and possibly in all of Canada. In undergrad and grad school @ York I had a total of 4 black (male) profs, and 2 black Teaching assistants. I also had 2 south-east Asian descent female profs and TA’s. One of the profs I had in year 1 inspired me to pursue a Masters and now a PhD, which I am starting in the fall. I always wished I had gone to a HBCU, but with the cost of 1 year of tuition in the US equalling to about 4 years of school in Toronto I stayed put. It’s important to give back, and I intend to donate to all the black student groups in the form of bursaries on my campus in the near future. Great post!

  • Even in brokeness I support my HBCU (Howard Baby!)— besides the alumni happy hours are the bomb (shouts to my cuzzo!).

  • my grandmother starting donating to hampton when i went to the pre-college meeting and she continued donating way after i graduated from grad school. my donations have not been that consistent but i will do better. thanks for reminding me.

  • Dom

    Well color me inspired dag nabbit! I went to WSSU and graduated in ’07. I stay broke and it didnt occur to me that even the little bit I can give will help with something. It might be cool to throw some sort of HBCU party and give a portion of the proceeds to my alma matter.

  • Chris

    Just donated to my alma mater (Spelman) and got my company to match it too! Thank you for posting this.

  • Yay! I’m so glad this post moved y’all to donate; thanks for all that you do. As for me, I sent my funds to UNCF, and even paid my national HUAA and local HUACNYC dues. (I see you, Sportie!) I’m broke this week, but it’s well worth it, lol.