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!


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