[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“For the first time in our nation’s history, a majority of our public school students are minority students. . . That demographic imperative will create a premium for colleges and universities with deep experience in educating students of color. Over the next few years, I believe HBCU’s will, in many respects, become more essential, not less so, to meeting our nation’s educational and economic goals.”

Arne Duncan

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There are very few people outside the community of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) who recognize the disproportionate and remarkable impact these schools have in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math and teaching.

The nation’s 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities make up only three percent of the country’s colleges and universities and yet they produce fully 27 percent of African Americans with bachelors’ degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.   Also in 2011 (the most recent data available), HBCU’s conferred one-fourth of the bachelor degrees in education awarded to African-Americans.

In addition, a recent report from the National Science Foundation revealed that 21 of the top 50 institutions for producing African American graduates who go on to receive their doctorates in Science and Engineering are HBCU’s. In total, between 2002 and 2011 among the top 50 institutions, HBCU’s collectively produced 1,819 African American graduates who earned a doctorate in Science and Engineering, while predominately white institutions produced 1,600, and foreign institutions produced 798.

HBCU’s focus on educational opportunity and historical commitment to improving the lives of African Americans may be one of the reasons H.R.4857, the HBCU Innovation Fund Act, was recently introduced in Congress.

The HBCU Innovation Fund Act would provide grants to HBCU’s designed to facilitate and encourage the planning and implementation of programs that improve student achievement, increase recruitment, increase graduation rates, and increase enrollment and completion of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees. The legislation would also help HBCU’s redesign course offerings to improve student outcomes and reduce education costs; enhance the quality and number of teacher preparation programs; expand the use of technology; and strengthen postgraduate employment outcomes for students.

Each year hundreds of California students make their way to historically black colleges and universities as freshmen. The number of California students who attend HBCU’s seems destined to increase in light of an agreement reached last May between California’s 112 community colleges and nine HBCU’s. The deal is designed to allow a student with 60 community college credits to enter these  historically black colleges as a junior.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]

“The HBCU Innovation Fund Act is one way to help close some of the gaps that persist on HBCU campuses and within HBCU administrations.”

Congresswoman Alma S. Adams

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]The agreement actually built on some existing agreements that eased transfers between individual community colleges and individual HBCU’s. Also, although seventeen HBCU’s already had transfer relationships with individual community colleges in California it is expected the statewide deal will make it even easier for California students to make the transition to a four year university.

The California Community College agreement includes the following HBCU’s—Bennett College, Dillard University, Fisk University, Lincoln University in Missouri, Philander Smith College, Stillman College, Talladega, Tuskegee University, and Wiley College.

According to Dr. Michael Lomax, President and CEO, United Negro College Fund,This legislation would build the capacity of our colleges to develop, test, and implement new approaches that can help HBCU’s surmount current challenges and meet the nation’s need for skilled college graduates.” Lomax continued, “Similar to the UNCF Career Pathways Initiative, a new private competitive grant program that will help selected HBCU’s intentionally and innovatively increase postgraduate employment outcomes, the HBCU Innovation Fund will support a broader strategic federal investment through both planning and implementation grants to drive innovative ideas and best practices at HBCU’s.  We urge swift adoption of this important initiative, whose possibilities are unlimited.”

The HBCU Innovation Fund would make $250 million in competitive grants available to these colleges and universities. The money would be earmarked to redesign course offerings as a way to improve student outcomes and reduce education costs; enhance the quality and number of teacher-preparation programs; expand the use of technology; and strengthen student postgraduate employment outcomes.

When the legislation was introduced and announced by Congresswoman Alma S. Adams (Dem. NC) she said, “HBCU’s give students the chance they deserve to succeed; however, they have been historically underfunded and lack many of the resources needed to address some of their most extreme challenges.”

According to Adams, “The HBCU Innovation Fund Act is one way to help close some of the gaps that persist on HBCU campuses and within HBCU administrations.”[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text el_class=”small”]Feature photo: Tuskegee University[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

S.E. Williams

Stephanie E. Williams is an award winning investigative reporter, editor and activist who has contributed to several Inland Empire publications. Williams spent more than thirty years as a middle-manager...