Black Student Success Report Card Shows PWI Failure is More Valuable Than HBCU Excellence

The University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center has released a report on the state of black student success at a portion of America’s four-year public colleges and universities. Historically black colleges were among the industry’s institution groups excluded from the studies, because the report’s lead author and center executive director Shaun Harper said on Facebook (not in the report) that certain historic missions and resulting data yield didn’t help in painting a picture of black student access and success in higher education.

Nothing could be further from the truth, given the disproportionate weight carried by HBCUs in most of the indicators examined in Dr. Harper’s report.

The report details access and success indicators for more than 950,000 students at 506 public institutions nationwide, sorted by data from 2016 and organized by the US Department of Education. The list of how accessible schools are and how effective they are in graduating black students is broken down thusly:

According to federal data, more than 144,000 black men and women attended public HBCUs in 2016-17, just over 15% of the total black student enrollment nationwide during the measured period. It is difficult to imagine any reputable survey of black student success in higher education at large where at least 15% of the control group is eliminated for not meeting a standard of “appropriateness.”

But let’s look at the idea of appropriateness in this survey. There is ground to concede that HBCUs could have been omitted because there is not an HBCU campus in every state. And perhaps there would’ve been grounds to leave out black colleges for baseline thresholds like endowment resources or a minimum enrollment threshold.

But leaving HBCUs out along these four specific areas of performance boxes them out of nearly every indicator that would place the nation’s 47 public four-year HBCUs at least among the top 60 of the nation’s best-performing colleges for black students by this report’s standards. And that prospect is not something which easily fits Dr. Harper, an Albany State University graduate, and his role as the nation’s preeminent PWI shamer.

There’s nothing wrong with shaming PWIs when it comes to race and equity in higher education. Most white colleges play fast and loose with statistics, enrollment strategy and resources to lure black students in, only to turn out a fraction of them as graduates and with most disillusioned about the role of their college experience in their personal and professional lives.

But that is not the HBCU experience as told by graduates and metrics. And this set of metrics would definitively show black college campuses doing the good work of racial balance in admissions, equity between campus labor and consumer groups, and completion rates among all on ethnic groups represented on a given campus.

The gender parity question, not so much. But who’s really counting when several HBCUs already outpace many public PWI flagship campuses in black first-year student enrollment anyway?

The problem with this report and many others like it is that it presents PWI failure on student racial equity as a leading issue of higher education when the real crisis is institutional inequity hampering HBCUs. We’ve seen campuses like Georgia State University explode with black student enrollment and outpace the state in black student admission and graduation rates – all while the campus faculty and executive workforce reflects none of the students’ identity.

This report is a part of the ideological miscalculation that has pushed HBCUs to the brink in the 21st century. The drive for more black access to white campuses has depleted HBCUs, all while the black student migrants seeking opportunities to be more integrated in the “real world” or to “be in a diverse environment” earn degrees and accrue debt while losing the most authentic and rewarding college experience available to them.

It’s the same issue that is clear in the ‘Black on Campus’ journalism experiment, and in Georgia State’s booming black enrollment; the world of our dreams is white remorse, white repentance and individual black achievement on white terms. All in that order.  And within this twisted take on black empowerment, Dr. Harper and others produce reports to shame PWIs into enrolling more black students in the hopes of PWIs miraculously developing incentive to do better by them; all while knowing that these schools will never institutionally cure the pernicious side effects of PWI enrollment created by isolationism and micro-aggressions levied by paying and employed campus stakeholders.

You read that right; the answer to black college students’ problems it to pay PWIs for more mistreatment and less representation on campuses which have historically marginalized them, and not attending schools with the qualitative and quantitative proof of being better for them.

Shaming PWIs for black inequity will never be a better option than uplifting HBCUs for their promotion of black opportunity. Even with their present-day success being driven by a racist past, they remain the top-performing sub-sector with the aim of solving America’s racial gaps in health, wealth and achievement through education.

Everybody knows it, but it’s particularly clear when efforts to mask the fact do even more to spread the HBCU gospel.

3 comments
  1. This is bullshit how the U.S. Department of Ed spins the results. But this is nothing new we already know that PWI do not educate or graduate African-American students better than HBCUs. Fact, since the beginning of time and obviously will continue into the unforeseeable future.

  2. When it comes to diversity…in this case…diversifying schools…PWIs dont get / dont want to get what it means.

    To many..” diversity means about equalizing or nearly equalizing the amount of Black/ non Black people attending their colleges / universities and that’s ok but as being mentioned on here the staff…like that of Georgia State University..should be the same. Its crazy. With all of those Black students on that campus one would think that the faculty/ staff would reflect that.

    Another meaning of diversity is understanding, respecting and celebrating ones culture.Mind you, PWIs have celebrations of cultures from around the world but when it comes to dealing with social issues with race…you can hang it up at a PWI.

    One of the Parkland students, David Hogg..applied for several colleges but wasnt accepted/ hear from not one of those schools.He had the grades and other prospects to make him eligible .I could be wrong but I believe that he was blackballed for his activism and speaking out about the Parkland killings and he’s White! There was a recent article about how colleges are more reluctant to accept students who speak out against a controversial issue or are activists. I had a Black Muslim professor to get fired because of something a Serbian girl didnt agree with him about concerning his faith and told the staff about him. Though I didnt see the big deal in what he said, the staff did.

    A couple of weeks back, there was a controversy about some young GSU majorettes ( I believe) who claimed that the coach had them to move to another less visible section of their stadium because the women believed that the coach ..thought that their dancing was ” too provocative”. Ive never went to an HBCU, wasnt exposed to Black person( outside my kin) until I was 6 and raised around White people but I knew that was our cultural dance. I learned from my Clark Atlanta educated grandfather. If White society got this , they would have gotten what these women were doing instead of direspecting their routine…so much for diversity..lol!

    The problem with most PWIs idea of diversity is that its about fulfilling quotas opposed to fulfilling the needs of their non Black student body.Pretty soon Kayvon Thibodeaux will be making is very important decision of attending the college of his choice. He seems like a mature guy with a head on his shoulder.

    Even at the private high school he’s currently attending, he’s not able to address social issues like that of Colin Kaepernick( taking the knee) and said that he supports his cause.When he picks his ideal school, I hope that he considers the following: that the school he picks respects his rights, that he will be at peace with and that is academically competitive. I wouldnt want for him to be there for football only.Far as Black athletes, that is what most of them are seen as and nothing else at PWIs.

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