HBCU DIGEST: Here are several states with policies that could hurt HBCUs in 2022

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There is a sense that, with HBCU athletics rising to prominence in recent weeks and HBCU philanthropy headlines continuing to gain attention, believing Black colleges to be in an uncharacteristically calm, but not quite good place is a worthwhile endeavor. 

Vibes may be good, but policies are not. The White House ran out the 2021 calendar without appointing an executive director for its initiative on HBCUs. A board of advisors, at least publicly, has only a chair and vice-chair. 

Much-needed federal support for Black colleges etched into the Build Back Better plan have been scrapped by a senator representing both of West Virginia’s historically Black institutions. 

This isn’t where we want to be. And it is even more of a sunken place when evaluating some of the policies and trends in various HBCU states, which may prove harmful to a sizable number of the schools in the next few months. Here are just a few. 

PENNSYLVANIA

Pennsylvania’s public system higher education system is one of the most vulnerable in the country, losing more than 26% of its total student enrollment since 2010. However, in the last year, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) has moved to merge six schools to make two new soon-to-be struggling institutions, and Cheyney University led the state in 2021 in total student enrollment gain with +15.

What happens to funding for Cheyney and Lincoln University in a state with too many schools, not enough money, and more enormous bills piling up for covid response, pension costs, and a possible windfall for K-12 educational spending?

SOUTH CAROLINA

In October, solicitations for new trustees at several public colleges in South Carolina were published statewide. At South Carolina State University, an interim president awaits the appointment of six new bosses to a board that was removed seven years ago among a hailstorm of legal inquiry executive turmoil.

The last iteration of the board appointed one of its members to preside over multiple years of falling enrollment and diminished brand value. How could new trustees under similar political objectives harm the flagship HBCU clearly and covertly?

FLORIDA

Also, in October, Florida’s Board of Governors appealed to lawmakers to grant $150 million in additional funding to Florida State University, the University of Florida, and the University of South Florida to boost their chances of improved positioning in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of colleges and universities.

This request was while Florida A&M University earned a place in the rankings as the nation’s top historically Black public university and posted its highest-ever score in the state’s performance-based funding ranking system. Suppose these achievements can be overlooked to benefit already thriving predominantly white institutions. Where will FAMU be if enrollment dips or the BOG changes the rules on performance metrics — all while three PWIs may receive millions in support for the sake of a list?

TENNESSEE

Community colleges in Tennessee will deal with falling enrollment numbers by offering fast-track, compressed courses for students. Soon, an entire semester of course work will offer completion opportunities in less than two months, giving the state that pioneered free community college and damaging outcomes for Tennessee State University another disadvantage for its flagship HBCU.

GEORGIA

Early admissions policies are benefiting several of Georgia’s largest PWIs. Emory University, the University of Georgia, and Georgia Tech are granting more opportunities to more minority students earlier to confirm more attendance sooner in the selection process for rising high school graduates. 

Georgia Tech accepted 2,399 of its 6,100 Early Action I applicants. It accepted 2,330 of its 6,000 Early Action I applicants last year. Officials there reported a 44% increase in Black students accepted. Georgia Tech has nearly 44,000 students. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

This trend could significantly hurt Albany State University, Fort Valley State University, and Savannah State University in the competition for minority students best positioned to afford and complete college.

FVSU lost 2% of its total enrollment from Fall 2020 to Fall 2021, while Albany State and Savannah State both lost more than 4%. 

UGA enrollment grew by 2% and Georgia Tech increased by more than 8% over the same period. 

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