Marybeth Gasman wrote an essay for Inside Higher Ed yesterday describing the "disadvantages" of financially teetering Historically Black Colleges. Among these include:
institutions suffer from a history of unequal state and federal fundingI suspected that the race card would come to fruition in a discussion of HBCUs --as is typical with misguided objectives that play to emotions and feelings in presenting racism as the de facto explanation for social ills and justifying increased funding as the solution. According to this realm of thought, as a matter of public policy, we should reward failing institutions that actively practice segregation? (Note: Gasman doesn't directly advocate more funding, but the message is implied)
foundation and corporate support has not been given at the same rate to black and white institutions
alumni giving...has been and continues to be lower on average than at historically white institutions...due in part to African Americans’ historic lack of access to wealth as a result of systemic forms of racism
Gasman's essay comes at a time when several HBCUs, including Paul Quinn, are either facing loss of accreditation or in PQ's case, have had it revoked. A brief note about the power of accrediting agencies: they hold the key to the treasury chest of federal financial aid. If not accredited by a US Department of Education-approved accrediting body, then a college's students are not eligible for federal aid. In other words, hasta la vista if the gatekeepers of Title IV funding grant the kiss of death by denying or removing a school's accreditation. With several HBCUs under intense scrutiny by the accrediting boards, which rarely revoke accreditation, this suggests that these schools are either looming on financial insolvency or failing to meet a very low minimum of institutional quality standards.
Rather than extend their cups looking for handouts, perhaps financially struggling colleges such as HBCUs should take note on how other institutions have been able to turn themselves around when faced with fiscal insolvency. Edward Morris describes how his university was able to overcome near bankruptcy by diverting from the status quo in his book --the Lindenwood Model. It was able to go from "surviving to thriving" by changing the fundamental way that the university is managed -and it does so as a private college focused on teaching that offers tuition comparable to public universities.
This is not to say that every college can (or should) replicate the Lindenwood Model, but HBCUs offer a differentiated college experience for low-income and minority students and as such, should try to differentiate themselves from the pack of wannabe research universities and focus on adding value to the learning experience of their students. This may mean abandonment of an anachronistic model and adapting to realities of the 21st century that include constant change and cultural dynamism.