Spelman president: There are many benefits to Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Spelman graduates enter the Spelman College commencement, Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell shared a response to a recent AJC story on Georgia’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

In the story, AJC reporter Eric Stirgus noted:

There are few places held in greater esteem among African-Americans than HBCUs. It’s where many learn about black historical figures, literature and culture they never learned about in grade and high school. It’s where they make lifelong connections through fraternities and sororities. Many graduates followed their parents in attending the same HBCU.

Some HBCUs, with lower tuition and a mission to lift up less academically accomplished students, are often a ladder to better lives for poorer families. There are about 20,000 students in Georgia’s 10 HBCUs, both private and state colleges. The Atlanta region’s businesses, governments and culture are populated with graduates, from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to Tony-winning director Kenny Leon.

The schools’ roles are shifting as HBCUs face an array of issues and challenges which are making the jobs of presidents more difficult. Money is the most important factor. There’s less of it at HBCUs and greater pressure for its presidents to raise more cash and manage finances, or lose their jobs.

The financial squeeze has multiple causes, from less state money to pinched students. Some students drop out because they can’t afford the tuition, affecting enrollments. A recent United Negro College Fund study found HBCU students carry about twice as much debt as other students.

Endowments — money from friends and graduates — to pay for scholarships, professorships and new buildings is smaller on average at HBCUs than most other colleges. The endowment gap between them and other colleges is greater than 100 to 1, according to some accounts.

WIth that background, here is Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell’s response:

A recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution article called attention to the problems of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The article, however, overlooked the considerable assets of HBCUs.

Take, for example, Spelman College, one of the four colleges that, along with Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse School of Medicine, is part of the Atlanta University Center.

Spelman produces more black women who complete Ph.D.s in STEM fields than any other U.S. institution. We are one of the top 30 colleges in the nation with the highest number of students to study abroad. More than 10 percent of our 2016 graduates were accepted into medical school or health professional programs and over 20 percent of our graduates received nationally and internationally competitive awards. For decades, we have enjoyed clean audits, superior financial ratings, a healthy, growing endowment and balanced budgets.

Spelman’s historically high number of admission applications grew by more than 60 percent in the last year alone, and our graduation rate (77 percent) is in the top five of colleges in Georgia and more than 30 percentage points higher than the national completion rate for African-American students in private institutions. A recent poll published in the New York Times demonstrated that students who attended Spelman experienced robust social mobility.

Strong governance by a dedicated and diverse board drives our success as a center for learning and pedagogy as evidenced by our students publishing research with faculty; our faculty attracting multi-millions of dollars in federal funding for innovative research; and our fostering the enduring bonds of sisterhood.

Spelman’s success is not unique. Research demonstrates that an education secured on an HBCU campus has a lasting impact on the lives of graduates. A recent Wall Street Journal article cited a Gallup poll that queried almost 60,000 graduates from a range of colleges — majority serving as well as minority-serving institutions — and determined that graduates of HBCUs experienced far more lifelong social and emotional well-being and career success than their peers.

What we might ask is how an HBCU education generates this life-long success and durable sense of well-being? What we might ask is how do we expand, nurture and amplify those benefits?

 

Reader Comments 0

37 comments
Betty A. Hampton
Betty A. Hampton

If the HBCU educated you , you should support it,whatever way you can

Daniel McDowell
Daniel McDowell

black colleges are fine as long they dont demand money from the state to stay open

Tammy Britton
Tammy Britton

oh you mean like John Hopkins, Duke, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan really so many school.

Johnny Knight
Johnny Knight

yes i guess so but i would think that more HBCU players would make the NFL than they do.

Kevin Bumpers
Kevin Bumpers

That's because the bigger schools have deeper pockets of $$$$ to recruit. Money talks.

Ricco A. Richardson
Ricco A. Richardson

Hbcu alumni don't support thier teams, nobody wants to go to a game that's lesser level than HS for a hbcu

Johnny Knight
Johnny Knight

Juwana Riggins Simon REALLY? Really you had to go there and play the race card? Yes partly because they are black but mostly because I would think players by now know EDUCATION should come first because of the fact only 3% of college players get to the NFL and of those only about 3% play more than 3 years. Good Athletes should get a good education and if the HBCU is that good i would think many good players should consider those colleges. I attended TSU for 2 semesters while I had to live in Nashville. Go Tiger Belles. The Track Tradition was still big but not so much for football.

Kevin Bumpers
Kevin Bumpers

Well, Johnny they do have a good turnout in the NFL. However, at an HBCU more emphasis is stresed on getting an education and a degree versus the power house schools.

Ricco A. Richardson
Ricco A. Richardson

Hbcu alumni don't support thier teams, nobody wants to go to a game that's lesser level than HS for a hbcu

Clarence Garrett
Clarence Garrett

Johnny Knight, to understand what is going on today you have to know what happened yesterday . Please study the history of HBCUs and their football legacy. Most top football talent choose the bigger named schools, looking to go pro.

Chris Subyak
Chris Subyak

I think Steve McNair was the last highly touted and successful prospect out of a HBCU. To no fault of their own, I might add. As alluded to earlier, premier football brands have deeper pockets. Google the article, Meet the Bagman, by SB Nation that interviews someone who leaves backpacks of cash for recruits for a more in depth understanding.

Betty A. Hampton
Betty A. Hampton

They don't their just not televised so the alumni is not as interested as they should be the first black quarterback was from Grambling i think played for Washington Redskins I think I am right and there are quite a few players from HBCU IN NFL fact check not as many as it should be.

Juwana Riggins Simon
Juwana Riggins Simon

Before anyone says why don't we have all white colleges... please read the article. Spelman accepts anyone of merit not solely on race.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

If the black community values HBCUs, then it needs to financially support them. Spelman is in the best financial position at AUC in part because they have a $367 million endowment. Morehouse's financial condition has declined in recent years and now has only a $130 million endowment. Clark Atlanta is in worse condition and only has a $66 million endowment.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

HBCU's have not outlived their usefulness

because they offer many college students

an opportunity to obtain their educational

goals like any other university. Any student

has the right to apply and get accepted

into a HBCU just like any other university.

Some HBCU's are recruiting students and

giving scholarships to qualified students

 (just like any other university) of different

backgrounds to increase diversity on campus.

Another comment
Another comment

It has been outed that even when Black graduate from white Universities and College the philanthropy rate is very low. Which is why many are reluctant to raise the % of admissions.

There is not the culture of giving back to your almamater those who help you get ahead.

Those of us who are white and were lower class ( poor) we give back. I have seen black friends who had much richer scholarships not give anything. It is all spent on the current.

Kamaria Jackson
Kamaria Jackson

I thoroughly enjoyed this article! I totally agree that there are several benefits to attending an HBCU (regardless of race or ethnicity.) As a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, I am proud of the fact that we have one of the top Mass Media Arts Programs in the country. Where one chooses to go to school should be based on their desired area of study, and should choose wisely. But as noted a wide range of HBCU's have top notch programs, some being the best amongst traditional colleges and universities. I encourage all high school graduates not to rule out HBCU's when considering quality education, because they equally if not better provide just that.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

Something that needs to be acknowledged is that, as with majority white universities (or MWUs, as they are known), there are different rankings of the private HBCUs. Spelman is one of the top-ranked HBCUs academically, with accompanying benefits for its graduates. But the lower ranked ones have different results, true also for the lower ranked MWUs. These have faculty who may not have Ph.D.s, heavy teaching loads, and low salaries. Black students who wish to go to an HBCU for the undeniable benefits of community and support for their minority experience should scrutinize it closely. Just being an HBCU should not be enough.

Starik
Starik

@OriginalProf These facts should be considered when people apply for teaching positions; a degree may mean very little.

Another comment
Another comment

Many companies have had graduates of the HBCU's portray that they are well prepared. Once on the job their is a huge gap in what level of Education they actually have. All it takes is one hire from that HBCU that is not prepared, for that school to go on the informal do not hire list. Their are White lower tier also on that list.

SJGM
SJGM

Spelman is doing better than most other HBCUs. When developed they met a need: a place for Blacks to get higher education since the White colleges denied Blacks entry.

But instead of keeping those institutions as colleges, etc., the NEED now is for young Black youth to be TAUGHT discipline, manners, English, proper dress, etc. I think these schools should be reformatted as boarding type schools, boot camp for youth, so they can do well in high school and get to college to do well in life. With the high rate of unwed mothers in the Black community, family structure, values, a focus on education and proper professional conduct is what's needed.

ATLEng
ATLEng

I'm so glad the majority knows exactly what the black community needs! Oh thanks so much for knowing exactly what the issues are! I'm sure you rrally stay up at night just thinking about how the black community is just suffering.....

kaelyn
kaelyn

Great idea. Boarding boot camp is exactly what black youth NEED. In the name of diversity, these schools should also house all of the white youth caught up in the meth and heroin epidemic. You know, because we should all demand equal opportunity. Smh.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@SJGM 

Then they wouldn't be colleges of higher education any more!

Astropig
Astropig

HBCU's have outlived their usefulness.This is a good thing.People of color can attend any college or university they want these days and thank goodness for that.They (the HBCU's) are the antithesis of the true diversity that civil rights pioneers sought .We should all rejoice that all doors at all schools are open to all students.

day off
day off

@Astropig 

Agreed. The weak link is the K-12 public school system serving the black community, not the public or private universities. 

Spelman's subsidies from taxpayers and donations from foundations and corporations could be put to much better use expanding the number of quality charter schools in inner-city neighborhoods.

Or tuition vouchers enabling promising black students to attend good private schools.

ATLEng
ATLEng

Wrong. Spoken like someone who has no idea about the HBCU experience. You have no idea the connections a black college student can obtain at an HBCU they would have no chance of competing for at a majority white university. Entry to the university is allowed, but don't pretend like everything is on even ground.

bu22
bu22

@Astropig Public HBCUs should go away (through merger when adjacent to other schools).  No need to continue to fund segregated universities.  Private HBCUs like Spellman have a place.

genonola
genonola

Except that HBCUs are not segregated in twenty-first century America. Collectively, the total undergraduate student body at Albany State, Fort Valley State, and Savannah State (three public, state-funded HBCUs) consists of 10,190 students. 847 of those students (8.3%) are either white/Caucasian or Hispanic/Latino.

Nearly five percent of Albany State's students are white (4.69%) while slightly over four percent of Savannah State's students are white and almost three percent of Fort Valley State's students are white. More than eight percent of Savannah State's students are Hispanic/Latino.

While HBCUs began as a means to provide higher education opportunities to black students who lacked other options due to segregation, they now contain student bodies that are predominantly, but not exclusively, African-American.

bu22
bu22

@genonola 95% is effectively segregated.  Albany St. was merged with Darton St., so that number is probably lower now.