Could Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) be a thing of the past? Funding and Black student enrollment at HBCUs have decreased, and there are few signs that this trend will reverse anytime soon.
Dr. Lakia Scott, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in Baylor School of Education and a two-time HBCU alumna, believes HBCUs are still relevant and should be preserved.
To honor the rich HBCU tradition, Scott researched this issue and came up with a few ways to help these schools survive and thrive in today’s educational landscape. Her findings are part of a new book, The Last of the Black Titans, written with her mentor and friend, Dr. Greg Wiggan, associate professor of urban education at the University of North Carolina Charlotte.
“This book is an homage to why HBCUs are still relevant and why we still need to send our children to them as well as invest and support them,” Scott said. “The book also provides recommendations on how HBCUs can remain vital to the African-American community as well as sustainable for generations to come.”
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are long-standing cultural institutions of higher learning, originating 150 years ago at a time when there were few educational options for young African-American men and women. Through the years, these cultural pillars have stood tall and provided a place where students fought prejudice and deep racial strife for civil unity and equal rights under the law.
The book chronicles Scott’s research of HBCUs and their role in American society — both historically and today. It also provides insight into different models HBCUs could adopt for continued sustainability and success.
Among Scott’s suggestions is for HBCUs to recruit directly from majority Black high schools. “HBCUs have something unique to offer students, most notably the notion of cultural capital and ethnic identity,” she said. “HBCUs should play to this strength and articulate how students can benefit from being at such an institution during a time when racial wars in the nation are still in play.”
Scott also suggests that HBCUs leverage the alumni power of celebrity graduates — which include Oprah Winfrey, Taraji P. Henson and Michael Strahan — in addition to local change agents, such as Black educators and other community leaders.
This book emerged from Scott’s dissertation for her PhD, earned in 2014 from University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her dissertation study, which focused on the perspectives of college-bound Black students about going to historically Black colleges and universities. Her purpose was simple: she wanted to understand the influencing factors that led to each student’s college choice. The book in essence highlights and addresses the findings from her study.
Despite HBCUs being vital within African-American communities, many are struggling with financial support. Twelve HBCU schools have closed, leaving 107, a relatively small number out of more than 4,700 colleges and universities in the U.S.
“We named the book The Last of the Black Titans because the title speaks to how critically important these institutions are to the Black community. If we don’t learn how to better support them, they will diminish,” Scott said.
Scott said HBCUs still stand as the nation’s leader in impacting African-American men and women and providing a world-class education. Historically Black colleges and universities still graduate about 20 percent of African-Americans with undergraduate degrees. HBCUs also produce more STEM graduates among African-Americans than any other non-HBCU.
“I believe that moving forward, HBCUs will continue to provide a quality education not just for Black students, but for all,” Scott said. “HBCUs should be cast as the intellectual titans that they are, because they are also the last of a dying breed for recapturing the intellectual excellence of Black people, which can be traced back to Ancient Kemet where many of the great philosophers studied – the Grand Lodge of Luxor and University of Sankore — just to name a few.”
—By Taliyah Clark
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