A lot of well-intentioned HBCU students, graduates and supporters say that attending a black college affords the chance for people to be “authentically, unapologetically and proudly themselves,” to be educated in a nurturing environment, to be exposed to black culture in the collegiate context, and to be a happier, more well-rounded person.
Very few black people care about marching bands, black pride, cultural comfort and self-affirmation enough to take their talents to an HBCU, and they haven’t cared for several years.
So maybe the conversation must change from qualititative measures of HBCU value to quantitative metrics. How are HBCUs providing jobs, shaping industry, matching economic trends and changing the view of racism in the scramble for a shot at upward mobility in the 21st century?
Here are a few of the talking points that perhaps advocates should begin sharing with high schoolers, instead of the talking points which have failed miserably and to the deteriment of far too many campuses.
4. Because White Students Will Soon Take Your Spot
According to federal data, 48,441 students at HBCUs were non-African American. In 2016, the number of non-black students had risen to 68,568 — an increase of more than 48% in 18 years. And while HBCUs are still recovering from the PLUS Loan debacle of 2012, enrollment losses have dramatically decreased from an annuall average of more than 10,000 students, to just over 1,000 students between 2014 and 2016 — all while financial support to HBCUs has increased over the same period.
The richest HBCU alumna is not Oprah Winfrey, but Ann Walton Kroenke, a 1972 Lincoln University (MO) nursing alumna. White and international students are slowly seeing the value of HBCU degrees, while black students are increasingly being lured by for-profits, community colleges and four-year PWIs.
Sooner or later, black students will likely get tired of being subjected to racism at PWIs, but there simply won’t be enough spots to accommodate the exodus back home for many of them. Better to grab a spot now before it becomes a premium.
3. HBCU Towns and Cities Are Growing
Even beyond the network of metropolitan HBCUs, which amid city expansion are dangerously outside of city planning objectives, smaller towns and cities across America are also experiencing growth. Manufacturing, retail and healthcare industries are locating to areas which have been hit by population loss, but are taking advantage of lower costs for land and living expenses for employees.
According to 24/7WallStreet.com, five of the top 20 small cities where income is growing the fastest are HBCU or HBCU-proximate cities.
Earning a degree and being able to find high-paying jobs in areas where living is affordable, graduate programs are accessible and amenities are growing is the ideal formula for young graduates looking to build wealth and working experience. Earning a competitive degree in emerging fields with lower debt than other institutions makes that pipeline far easier to enter from HBCUs.
2. The Federal Government is Boosting Black Job Recruitment, Entrepreneurship
Last fall, former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talked about HBCUs as an essential partner in diversifying the department’s workforce. The Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation are also aggressively pursuing minority candidates for high-level positions.
But even if working for the government in the Trump Administration isn’t an attractive option for most HBCU students and graduates, a new provision from the administration has made it easier for HBCU graduates working in agriculture to access funds to boost agribusiness entrepreneurship. From The Nation:
Introduced by Senators Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, and Alabama Democrat Doug Jones, the Fair Access for Farmers and Ranchers Act expands how farmers and ranchers can qualify for USDA programs, enables the secretary of agriculture to pilot lending programs for heirs’-property owners, and requires the USDA to collect data on land ownership and tenure by race, gender, and region.
With many of the nation’s strongest HBCUs in the 1890 Land Grant subsector, earning degrees and training from these schools and using federal networks and newfound money to expand family farms may create a whole new sector of wealth for HBCU graduates, in a historically important-yet-unheralded industry for African Americans.
Add these programs to initiatives from companies like Boeing, Google and Apple specifically working to recruit from HBCUs, and it makes little sense for a high-acheiving black student to make any other college choice if the goal is being noticed for placement in the Fortune 500 or federal workforce development pipeline.
1. HBCU Programs of Strength are in the Highest Earning Industries
It makes sense to pay a lot for a degree that can help a graduate earn a lot after graduation. Interestingly, most HBCU students select majors that are more about improving the quality of life for others instead of acquiring individual wealth.
But over the years, HBCUs have become world class at building programs and majors which help graduates to earn high salaries in short order after graduation. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce recently produced a report detailing the top-earning majors for college graduates, based on 2016 statistics.
Careers in the applied and natural sciences, obviously, were the front runners in their report. But the key to this data lies in the qualitative view of how and why people pick institutions, and what happens after they cross the stage.
The growing buyer’s remorse among former students has made times even more uncertain. The majority of Americans (51%) would change their degree type, institution, or major if they could do it again, according to the results of a 2017 Gallup Poll. These regrets were influenced by a number of factors, but one was lack of information about degrees and the careers they could lead to.
Because postsecondary education and training have become the most well-traveled pathways to middle class earnings, both students and the educators who serve them need to learn new rules of the college and career game. Students need to shop around for college because higher education is a student’s first major investment in the transition from dependent adolescent to independent adult. Students deserve to know what they are paying for.
If a cheaper degree could earn the same amount of salary and career mobility, how many people would choose a different school to owe less for that degree? Why suffer buyer’s remorse when HBCUs offer the best bargain?
All of these benefits – and you haven’t even gotten to the halftime show.