The Resurrection of Ghost HBCUs?

A while ago, I wrote a piece about the survival of ‘ghost HBCUs,’ institutions that had years ago lost accreditation, students, financial stability, and hope within changing geography and economies, but remained open for business.

HBCU Digest
Tracking the Survival of ‘Ghost HBCUs’
Former Winston-Salem State University Chancellor and higher education consultant Alvin Schexnider writes for Inside Higher Education today about the diminishing prospects for some small-sized HBCUs – but his assessment may be less about how HBCUs can move into the future, and more about how institutions cling to the past…
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Today, several of those institutions are hoping to come back to life thanks to renewed interest in Black colleges and debt forgiveness from the federal government.

Morris Brown College has raised money and secured application status with an accreditor decades after losing its membership and the campus falling into disrepair.

HBCU Digest
It’s Time to Just Believe in Morris Brown’s Big Lie
In 2019, the New York Times profiled the collapse of a chain of for-profit colleges that, before being laid to waste by policies from the U.S. Department of Education four years prior, had allegedly defrauded hundreds of thousands of students out of millions of dollars they paid for non-transferable college credits and useless degrees…
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Knoxville College is looking to reorganize and reestablish membership with an accrediting body and has created a curious relationship with nearby the predominantly white flagship University of Tennessee Knoxville campus.

HBCU Digest
Why is the University of Tennessee Really Partnering with Knoxville College?
Global tech and business development consulting company CGI will open a new domestic delivery hub in Knoxville in the coming years. In exchange for a $27 million investment in the city, the company will create an estimated 300 tech jobs and boost employment opportunities beginning this month…
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Barber-Scotia College is soliciting community feedback on how it should resurface as an institution several years after temporarily closing and reopening again with a handful of students and no eligibility for them to receive federal financial aid.

From the Charlotte Observer:

The Concord Community Vision Input Project surveyed residents about developments they hope to see as part of the college’s revitalization. Questions included what educational programs and community impact facilities should be added to the campus.

The survey gathered responses from 797 participants.

Some 59% believed that a trade school program should be explored while over 60% supported the college creating community-related programs, such as a job training center and mixed-use area for office buildings and residential space.

Accreditation afterlife has yielded a second chance for these institutions, one that draws them closer to eliminating debt and being able to attract students. But it hasn’t brought them closer to solutions that can help them flourish against institutional competition growing stiffer by the semester.

For Barber-Scotia and Knoxville, community members are suggesting that the campuses do something other than jumpstarting their way back into being traditional, private four-year institutions. Morris Brown is going in the opposite direction of that concept, but it, like the others, still faces an uphill battle. Deferred maintenance costs will range in the millions, basic personnel and infrastructure prices can range in the hundreds of thousands, and these are all just to get to the part where they can recruit and retain the hundreds of students they’ll need to remain financially solvent — if they can make it that far.

The quiet element of conversations around all of these campuses is the struggle with the land upon which these campuses were built. In Atlanta, Morris Brown trustees and supporters have fought hard not to cede the acreage to municipal or private developers, ever since their last attempt to do so resulted in a court rejecting the effort.

Despite being sold in 2017 to a China-based investment group, the land of the former Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Va remains a target for community leaders seeking to replace the economic impact the private institution used to yield for local businesses and economy.

It’s smart for Black people, (in this case, HBCU trustees) to hold fast to dreams of using land that was so hard to get hundreds of years ago in the name of emancipation. Today’s economics, zoning rules, and politics make it difficult to do that in any corporate model other than a college, and this is what leads us to the ongoing struggle.

Financial windfall and cultural resonance may resuscitate these institutions but will it help them to eventually thrive? Are we at a point in history where sharing ‘the struggle’ is no longer kindle enough to light people’s interest in our plight or progress?

HBCU Digest
Why HBCU Students Don’t Trust The Media
So many of the connections between black people and the United States are fear-driven, the same fear that drives the success of the news industry. Americans fear violence, poverty, sickness, judgment, and not being free. Black folks fear the exact same things in this world; but we understand, at varying levels, that much of the med…
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How long will we torture these institutions by not fully bringing them back from the dead and not letting them rest in peace?