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Lawmakers, tech leaders advocate for science pipeline at black colleges
HBCU Caucus expands relationships on Capitol Hill
 
Published Friday, March 8, 2019 10:30 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

The HBCU Caucus hosted the second HBCU STEAM Day of Action on Capitol Hill Thursday to advocate for more investment in the sciences at historically black colleges.

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Lawmakers are keen to turn historically black colleges into a pipeline of science and tech professionals.


The Bipartisan HBCU Caucus hosted the second annual STEAM Day of Action on Capitol Hill Thursday, bringing together education and industry leaders for advocacy on behalf of the nation’s 102 black colleges. The emphasis focuses on opportunity and economics in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics: Investing in HBCUs, which enroll 300,000 students, and campus infrastructure contributes to America’s economy and competitive standing.

“HBCUs contribute nearly $15 billion to our annual economy and have provided pathways of opportunity to millions of Americans, many of whom are first generation college students,” said Adams, a Charlotte Democrat and founder and co-chair of the HBCU Caucus. “Despite being historically underfunded and under-resourced, these institutions continue to produce top talent.  Forty-two percent of black engineers and 47 percent of black women engineers are HBCU graduates.”


The HBCU Caucus, which Adams founded in 2015 and includes a record 86 lawmakers, brought in corporate supporters of workforce diversity initiatives such as tech giants Apple and Dell, media companies Pandora, Nielsen, and Spotify; financial firms GM Financial and Regions Bank and retailer Amazon.  The industry coalition met with 40 congressional Republicans and Democrats to advocate for greater resources for HBCUs and best practices for workforce diversity. North Carolina has 10 accredited black colleges – more than any other state.


“HBCUs are critically important to the preparation of African Americans for the industries of the future and leadership on the issues of critical importance to black America,” said Rep. Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Because of HBCU’s and the outstanding educations they provide, we have more black engineers, doctors, lawyers and businessmen who are leading in their communities and providing positive examples for future black leaders.”

Said Johnson C. Smith University President Clarence Armbrister, who attended the forum: “HBCUs are drivers of their local economies and help prepare our nation’s students for 21st century opportunities. HBCU STEAM Day is vitally important because we must ensure that our institutions have the tools and resources not only to survive, but to thrive.”


As U.S. colleges face challenges in appropriations, academic models and demographics, HBCUs are repositioning for the future.


“That is why HBCU STEAM Day is so important,” said Adams, a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University and a retired professor at Bennett College, both historically black schools. “It’s a day when HBCUs and their students come to Capitol Hill and advocate for greater resources – and they don’t come alone. They come with industry leaders who have made a commitment to creating strategic and sustainable partnerships with HBCUs.  There is no workplace diversity, especially within STEAM fields, without HBCUs.”


Although black colleges make up just 3 percent of all U.S. four-year campuses, they graduate 20 percent of the nation’s African American college graduates. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, pledged more attention to them as part of the nation’s education landscape.


“Historically Black Colleges and Universities are an important part of our higher education system and provide unique opportunities to their students,” he said. “As we work on updating the Higher Education Act this Congress, my goal is to make sure that all colleges and universities, including our nation’s HBCUs, are worth students’ time and money.”

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