Howard University and South Carolina State University this week announced dual degree programs with predominantly white institutions in the name of bolstering minority opportunities in STEM industries.
During the 2015-16 academic year, historically black colleges and universities grossed more than $7.7 billion in total revenues, with funds from private gifts and grants (outside of federal student financial aid) accounting for about $320 million of the big number.
Howard University, with $9.98 million in private gifts and grants received that year, represented about three percent of the total for all HBCUs. It is in range of close comparison to the largest public four-year HBCU, North Carolina A&T State University, which grossed about $12 million in non-capital gifts and grants during the same year.
Two HBCUs account for nearly seven percent of the grand total of non-operating gifts and contracts received by an entire sector of colleges and universities, and with roughly 100 other institutions contributing $299 million in the rising amount of private donations and gifts coming to HBCUs, both schools are well above the average $3 million other schools are contributing per campus.
That’s context — the kind of context that matters most when a news outlet like the Washington Post publishes a hit piece on Howard and its administration, by framing a narrative that the HU administration is failing on its mission in leading the nation’s flagship HBCU with finance, safety and faculty discontent as key indicators of perceived underperformance.
It’s also the kind of context that HBCU alums should be ripping apart in emails to the story’s author, Valerie Strauss, the education editor and the Post’s editorial board; the vortex of content creators and producers who should be averse to having incomplete narratives running beneath a motto of ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness,’ which apparently only applies to disillusioned white folks and their issues with Donald Trump as president, which by the way, isn’t working out so badly for black colleges.
So let’s walk our way through some broader higher education context missing from Strauss and the Post’s swing at Howard President Wayne Frederick and the HU administration.
Washington Post – In 2016, Standard & Poor’s Financial Services dropped Howard’s bond rating to the lowest it could be as investment grade and said its outlook was negative.
Higher Ed Context – Two years after that assessment, S&P said the outlook for the entire industry of higher education was ‘grim,’ a fact not mentioned in Strauss’ article.
Washington Post – In 2017, a former employee-benefit-plan manager was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for embezzling more than $420,000 from pension accounts. Then, on April 9 this year, Howard officials announced that six former employees had misappropriated $369,000 in financial aid from 2011 to 2016. School officials had known about the scandal for some time, but it was the first time the public learned of its scope.
Higher Ed Context – Seven employees accounted for just over $779,000 in embezzled or misappropriated funds from Howard, which is about $4 million less than was misappropriated by a former chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and far less than the entire City University of New York’s spending issues.
Washington Post – Students had long complained that Howard officials did not adequately address sexual assault allegations by women. Late last year, a sixth woman joined a federal lawsuit accusing the university of failing to properly address allegations of sexual assault said to have been committed between 2014 and 2016 by male Howard students and employees.
Higher Ed Context – Let’s all say it together — Larry Nassar! And then let’s read Strauss’ brokerage of a guest column on why Michigan State deserved to survive one of the biggest scandals in American higher education history — only to, months later, essentially serve as ghostwriter for disgruntled faculty and execs hoping to generate support for Frederick’s firing.
Washington Post – Then in April, faculty members voted no-confidence in him — as well as in his provost and chief operating officer. (They had also voted no-confidence in 2017. That process was questioned on procedural grounds, but the vote was never overturned.)
Higher Ed Context – Faculty members voting no confidence? Yeah, that’s like a thing now at PWIs and HBCUs and every school in between.
Maybe Strauss and those who think everything wrong with Howard rests with its administration thought that painting a full canvas of Howard’s problems could fuel pressure for his firing. But that’s the thing about disgruntled campus stakeholders – they rarely step out of their own dissatisfaction to determine if their problems are unique, or if they underscore larger trends in higher education.
Howard has earned its spot as America’s flagship HBCU, but there’s no amount of enrolled students, no amount of philanthropy, no calendar of scandal-free days which could earn the Mecca immunity from financial trends, cultural movements and industrial challenges faced by nearly every college and university in the country. Every campus is going through what Howard is going through and the answer is not hiring a PR firm or revitalizing the entire campus with new facilities and systems.
We want Howard to be the antidote for black ignorance and white supremacy. Address those topics with the key stakeholders driving the narratives about HU shortcomings and all problems go away. Ignore those stakeholders and every administrative misstep, student grievance, and faculty complaint will be national news until Frederick’s presence on campus becomes an outright liability for the institution.
Howard is a special school with a certain capacity which won’t allow it to fail as easily as other campuses facing similar challenges. But criticizing the school or its leadership doesn’t indict the actors, it indicts the culture which Howard leads in deed and action. Every time someone tries to play Howard, they are actually playing the entire sector; because if there is a case to make against the HBCU with more programs, more rich alumni, more brand resonance and more industrial clout than any within its peer group, then there is truly a case for HBCUs at large to close up shop.
And that’s not really what the Washington Post wants. After all, negative Howard press earns far too many clicks and sells far too many papers to allow a little thing like latent white privilege and total ignorance of HBCU culture to stop one of its primary money makers.
Charitable giving and grantmaking to historically black colleges and universities increased for the third consecutive year in 2016, while enrollment declines which had annually exceeded more than 10,000 students for several years were just over 1,000 for the second straight year.
Data released by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics shows that HBCUs received more than $320 million in private gifts and grants during the 2015-16 academic year, the highest amount of non-public funding coming to the sector since grossing $351.5 million in 2012.
The increase represents just .78% of the record $41 billion given to higher education in 2016, but represents a 20% increase in black college philanthropy over the last two years; a stark contrast to the 24% drop in HBCU giving between 2012 and 2014.
Private Gifts & Grants to HBCUs
2012 – $351.5 million
2013 – $304.7 million
2014 – $265.2 million
2015 – $316.8 million
2016 – $320.5 million
HBCU sector total enrollment declined for the fifth consecutive year since an all-time high of more than 326,000 students in 2010. Attrition numbers increased slightly from 2016, with HBCUs losing a total of 1,305 students in comparison to 928 students a year ago.
But the losses continue a trend of HBCUs moving towards enrollment sustainability, after withstanding annual enrollment declines of more than 9,000 between 2011 and 2014.
Total HBCU Enrollment
2012 – 312,438
2013 – 303,167
2014 – 294,316
2015 – 293,388
2016 – 292,083
Earlier this month, alumni at Texas Southern University and Howard University gave in excess of $1 million gifts in individual and collective donations to the institutions. Last fall, Southern University’s Human Jukebox inked a $1 million sponsorship deal with a local fast food chain, earning philanthropic support for band scholarships, equipment and the Jaguars’ athletic program.
A big part of how universities of all sizes and missions will survive over the next 20 years will be determined by how closely their degree programs align with stable and emerging industries. Data USA compiles statistics from federal education and census resources into a visual analytics blender to create a literal picture of what this alignment looks like for schools, cities, and states.
Here’s the industrial outlook of the United States.
And here’s a view of the jobs most commonly held by graduates from the largest HBCUs with a total enrollment of 5,000 or more students, broken down by each institution’s top five most popular degree programs.
ALABAMA STATE UNIVERSITY
ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY
FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY
BOWIE STATE UNIVERSITY
MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
JACKSON STATE UNIVERSITY
FAYETTEVILLE STATE UNIVERSITY
NORTH CAROLINA A&T STATE UNIVERSITY
NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY
WINSTON-SALEM STATE UNIVERSITY
TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY
PRAIRIE VIEW A&M UNIVERSITY
TEXAS SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY
NORFOLK STATE UNIVERSITY
The majority of HBCU students are earning degrees which fall within the nation’s largest industrial sector of health and human services. Popular majors of education, social work, psychology, communications, biology, and engineering lead to jobs in teaching, mid-level management, mental or physical health sciences.
But this list is largely comprised of public institutions with broader admission pathways. How does it shape out for graduates of more selective HBCUs? Here are the job reports on the HBCUs with acceptance rates below 40%.
FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY
FLORIDA MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY
FORT VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
PAUL QUINN COLLEGE
SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY AT NEW ORLEANS
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND EASTERN SHORE
Trends from this list show that degrees lead to more specialized careers in high-earning industries of law, healthcare and financial services. Even schools which have drawn negative attention for low-enrollment show that a preponderance of their graduates, according to census tracking, are working in fields that nationwide offer a high-probability of landing a job and forging a career.
HBCUs are doing a solid job of offering and awarding degrees in areas that are essential to the stability of the nation’s economy, even in regions and on campuses where such success
The HBCU All-Star Student Program is currently being redesigned in an effort to streamline its selection and recognition processes.
Howard University alumnus and acclaimed actor Chadwick Boseman appeared on ‘Live with Ryan and Kelly’ yesterday to discuss his upcoming commencement keynote speech at his alma mater.
[Read more…] about WATCH – Howard’s Chadwick Boseman Discusses His Upcoming Commencement Speech
Howard University graduates and former college presidents Irvin and Pamela Reid discuss their recent $1 million gift to HU’s department of psychology.
[Read more…] about LISTEN – Irvin and Pamela Reid Discuss Their $1 Million Gift to Howard U
Howard University and Texas Southern University are the latest historically black campuses to announce million-dollar cash infusions through gifts and fundraising events.
No organization plays funnier with numbers than the United States Federal Government, especially when it comes to funding for education. The Department of Education can produce three different reports suggesting three different sets of statistics on how much it supports equity among all kinds of tax paying citizens through public funding.