An 8 person drumline from Virginia State University plays in the Cross Hall of the White House before an event honoring Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed Executive Order 12232, which established a federal program "to strengthen and expand the capacity of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) to provide a quality education." Last week President Obama held an HBCU event at the White House to announce his executive order strengthening Carter’s initiative decades earlier. Obama says these schools have felt the pain of the recession (and his own cuts last year) the most because they enroll a higher proportion of low and middle-income students. His order includes $850 million which will ensure students can afford a college education and HBCUs can improve and expand facilities. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College, the oldest historically Black college for women in the U.S. notes that HBCU are still relevant to the nation’s future, even if we have a Black president.
Consider the fact that while the 105 public and private HBCUs make up only 3% of today’s colleges and universities, more than 20% of all African-American college graduates attended an HBCU. Particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), where Black students are woefully under-represented in most predominantly white institutions, HBCUs have demonstrated great effectiveness in fostering academic success.
The assistance comes at a perfect time. With all the hate crimes happening at public and private institutions this year we may see more applicants applying to HBCUs.