It’s not about money… it’s about sending a message: $228 Million to HBCUs

Say you have $228 million. What would you do with it?

Set it on fire to prove a point as the Joker did in the 2008 movie The Dark Knight? Or would you give it to historically black college and universities (HBCUs)?

What will $228 million to fix the unfixable

Is there a difference?

Why not roll the ugliness [Obama White House awards HBCUs, but how will the money be managed?, The Grio, by David Love, 9-20-2012]: 

The Department of Education recently announced it is providing $228 million in grants to 97 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in 19 states. The funds will be used for campus expansion, counseling programs, science equipment and faculty training.

“HBCUs have made enduring, even staggering contributions to American life despite the steep financial challenges many have faced,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The grants will help these important institutions continue to provide their students with the quality education they need to compete in the global economy.”

The announcement is welcome news for financially challenged institutions who, like the black community as a whole, have been hurting during the U.S. economic downturn.  In addition, the grants will ease the concerns of critics who believe President Obama has not done enough to help the black community, his most ardent supporters.

Nevertheless, with the collapse of Morris Brown College— due to financial mismanagement, corruption, financial aid theft and foreclosure—and the overall precarious fiscal state of HBCUs, some are wondering if these schools can be trusted to properly manage their finances.

Among the historically black institutions facing economic woes are Bethune-Cookman University and Florida Memorial UniversityMoney troubles have translated into accreditation issues and warnings forFisk University, Tennessee State, Bennett College, Tugaloo College, Saint Paul’s College, Southern University, Virginia Union University, Grambling State University and others. Loss of accreditation affects a university’s reputation, fundraising and access to financial aid— which is crucial to the well-being of HBCUs.

In addition to Morris Brown, Alabama A&M University and Florida A&M have faced financial accountability problems, including financial aid theft.

Although the 105 HBCUs account for 3 percent of all U.S. colleges, they enroll 12 percent of black college students, produce 23 percent of all black college graduates, 40 percent of the nation’s black science graduates, and 60 percent of blacks holding engineering degrees.  Further, these institutions are responsible for generating 50 percent of all African-American professionals and public school teachers, 75 percent of African-American Ph.Ds, 80 percent of black federal judges, and 85 percent of all African-American doctors.

Leadership in the HBCUs is at a crossroads, with vacancies for the position of president open at 16 colleges.  According to John S. Wilson, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the abnormally high vacancies are part of a problem that has been simmering for years, with an uphill battle in attracting quality leaders, but the immediate issue is the state of the economy.

No, there is no difference. If you set the $228 million on fire, at least you’d be able to discern what happened to it (it would be burned and you’d be fighting inflation!). Instead, with a gift of $228 million you are working to artificially prop up a segment of the educational industry – HBCU – that the invisible hand of the free market is pimp slapping for its inefficiencies.

Though Chicago State University is not considered an HBCU, nearly 90 percent of the 7,000 undergraduates are Black. The same problems of accounting errors and lack of institutional control, unearthed during an audit of the school, clearly indicate that the university is deserving of both the “HBCU” title and for receiving a significant portion of the $228 million. [Audit: Chicago State University a financial messMore than 40 problems reported, including failure to send bills to students, Chicago Tribune, by Jodi Cohen, 4-13-2011]:

 But the scathing audit portrays the 7,000-student university as a financial mess, with federal grants misspent, lax control over contracts and misuse of purchasing cards. The review revealed 41 problems, up from 13 the prior year. The problems ranged from paying vendors above contracted amounts to allowing an elementary education student to graduate despite not completing a course in teaching physical education, a state requirement.

Not that big of deal, considering that Morgan State (with a graduation rate of 34 percent) was bestowed a $95.8 million grant from NASA in 20011 — the future of our space program in the hands of recruiting future NASA employees from a school whose admission standards are as follows:

 Admission Requirements  

 Morgan State University Office of Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment  Admission Requirements  

 First Time Freshmen   

  • 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA), and  
  • 850 SAT (Combined critical reading and math), or  
  • 17 ACT (Composite Score)
Yeah, burning the money makes more sense than giving it to HBCUs as grants

Or we could just let the findings on graduation rates at HBCUs published in the Journal of Black’s in Higher Education do the talking for us:

The highest Black student graduation rate at the HBCUs is at Spelman College in Atlanta. There, 79 percent of entering students graduate from Spelman within six years. This rate is higher than the Black student graduation rate at many of the nation’s highest-ranked colleges and universities. The Black student graduation at Spelman College is 15 percentage points higher than at any other HBCU in our survey.

The Black student graduation rate at Howard University is 64 percent. This ranks Howard second among the HBCUs in our survey. Morehouse College in Atlanta ranks third with a Black student graduation rate of 61 percent.
The only other HBCU in our survey with a Black student graduation rate of more than 50 percent is Hampton University in Virginia. There, 54 percent of entering Black students earn a degree at Hampton within six years.
At nearly half the HBCUs in our survey, the Black student graduation rate is 33 percent or lower. At these institutions, less than one third of all entering African American students earned a bachelor’s degree within six years. There are six HBCUs in our survey where less than one in five entering Black students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.

Yes, burning the money makes much, much more sense. But then again, we do live in Black-Run America (BRA) where there are no consequences for being Black. Only rewards.

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