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The Voice of the Black Community

State & National

HBCUs squeezed by politics, budget
Study: N.C. campuses underfunded
Published Wednesday, April 30, 2014 10:17 am
by Herbert L. White

North Carolina’s publicly funded black colleges are as underfinanced and undervalued as ever, according to a report by University of Pennsylvania researchers.

Despite historical underfunding by the state, North Carolina’s five public historically black colleges confer more degrees to African Americans than the University of North Carolina system’s 11 predominantly white campuses.

The study, “America’s Public HBCUs: A Four State Comparison of Institutional Capacity and State Funding Priorities,” authored by William Casey Boland and Marybeth Gasman, presented a case study of public black colleges in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and North Carolina. The authors call for reforms in state funding and policy to support HBCUs’ mission of educating underserved students. 

North Carolina has five public HBCUs: Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, N.C. A&T State, N.C. Central and Winston-Salem State. Together, they awarded 3,706 degrees to black students in 2011 compared to 2,507 among 11 predominantly white public schools.

“Underfunding HBCUs compromises their ability to attract students and to compete with more prestigious and well-resourced PWIs,” the authors wrote. “…By being routinely short-changed, many HBCUs cannot compete with other institutions that can afford to offer sleek ultra-modern facilities.” 

Noting that HBCUs serve disproportionate numbers of first generation students – including a growing percentage of Latinos and whites – the authors expanded on a 2008 study by James Minor that examined pre-recession funding on the campuses. 

“The recession of 2008 led to deep cuts in state funding for most public higher education institutions, but HBCUs were hit especially hard,” the authors wrote. “HBCUs are more susceptible to economic downturns because a large portion of their funding derives from tuition and most HBCU students come from low-income households, which have fewer resources to buffer the impact of an economic downturn. Furthermore, HBCUs tend to have smaller endowments than their PWI (predominantly white institutions) counterparts, making them more susceptible to economic shocks.”

North Carolina’s public college system withstood the recession better than the states covered in the report, with higher funding in the 2012-13 academic year than in 2007. HBCUs benefited from increased appropriations during that span, especially A&T, which got a 20 percent boost, and NCCU, which saw a 28 percent jump. 

However, gaps remain in funding per full time enrolled student, a more accurate measure of state appropriation levels. The highest FTE among black colleges in 2011 – Winston-Salem State’s $10,618 – was nearly half that of UNC Chapel Hill ($17,992) and two-thirds of N.C. State University ($15,558). 

HBCUs face daunting odds of gaining state funding from lawmakers who’ve historically prioritized larger mainstream schools. 

In North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory – a Republican – hinted last year that underperforming UNC system campuses could be closed or consolidated, which stoked concerns that HBCUs would be shuttered. 

McCrory also threatened to end ECSU’s joint pharmacy program with UNC Chapel Hill, citing “dwindling enrollment and an inferior education,” the report’s authors wrote. Although McCrory backed off, “the message was clear: flagship institutions overshadow smaller colleges and universities regardless of the vital purposes they serve.”

Boland and Gasman offer a series of recommendations for state governments and HBCUs to increase state support that revolve around limiting calls for efficiency and performance-based funding initiatives that historically cost black colleges enrollment.

• Adoption of equitable enrollment-driven funding, such as N.C.’s Focused-Growth Initiative, which funneled $420 million to seven UNC campuses (including all five HBCUs) for enrollment, facilities and programs improvements

• Recognize the relevance of HBCUs and their success in educating historically underserved students

• Assess program duplication carefully when determining the fate of graduate-level courses at HBCUs

• Support expanding HBCU fundraising capacity

• Build partnerships between HBCUs and predominantly white schools. Shared graduate programs is already a reality in North Carolina

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For clarification, UNC-Pembroke is neither a "HBCU" or "predominantly white school." It is the first and only Historical American Indian College in this nation. It was the first public institution created to educate American Indians.
I understand that we, First Peoples of the United States, are the invisible people that publications like this tend to ignore but, we are still here & we are a proud people. And we have no need or want to be included with your "HBCU" or "predominately white schools" category. Most of our students are still first generation and UNCP's academics can match any other University in this state.
Posted on May 1, 2014

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