Breaking down inequitable barriers for students

Norfolk State University offers child care services not only for their students but also for the surrounding community. Delaware State University used its Higher Education Emergency Assistance Fund (HEERF) to be one of the first institutions to pay off student debt.

These are just a few of the ways historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) continue to tackle inequality, mentioned by panelists convened by The Hope.Dr Donna Patterson Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Together, academics, researchers and journalists spoke about the importance of higher education as a means to tackle inequality, the weight of racial justice work, how the pandemic has clarified or exacerbated inequalities and solutions that the HBCUs were able to find thanks to the financial support. provided for by the CARES and HEERF law.

“We have to build the groundwork internally and externally, level the playing field. HBCUs are so important in terms of who goes to them, who they educate and help rise up educationally and economically,” said Dr Donna Patterson, Professor and Chair of the Department of History, Political Science, and Philosophy at Delaware State University. “Such an impact is felt not only on the student, but also on his family.

Journalist Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, national higher education reporter at The Washington Post, discussed the disparity between the collective endowment of HBCUs and the value of a one-time endowment in a predominantly white private institution (PWI). At the end of fiscal 2020, each HBCU’s collective endowment was $ 3.9 billion, far less than New York University’s endowment, Douglas-Gabriel’s alma mater, which is worth $ 5. $ 8 billion in 2021.

Schools with the ambition to become R1 research institutions, said Douglas-Gabriel, were initially prohibited from applying for grants to help them build the necessary facilities for high-level research.

“While there is progress being made, there is a long legacy of unraveling what is owed to these schools,” said Douglas-Gabriel. “It’s time to redeem ourselves for intentionally disadvantaging our schools segment.”

Douglas-Gabriel was joined by Eric Stirgus, writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Georgia is home to ten HBCUs, four based in or near Atlanta. Together, Douglas-Gabriel and Stirgus discussed the funding gains of the administration’s Build Back Better Biden reconciliation bill. Despite reducing overall funding to a fraction of Biden’s original $ 45 billion proposal for HBCUs and Institutions Serving Minorities (MSIs), impressive lobbying from HBCUs and MSIs kept their needs on the table.

Stirgus said some HBCU executives have come to the defense of the bill knowing that “it might not be all we want, but the investment in it is bigger than what we’ve seen since. years”.

Settling a 15-year-old legal battle in Maryland could provide a promising landscape for navigating the uneven distribution of funds. The state of Maryland has settled with Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and University of Maryland: Eastern Shore, all HBCUs that have alleged discriminatory public funding. Douglas-Gabriel and Stirgus believe the regulation, which includes a statewide higher education directive to ensure all Maryland state universities offer competitive courses, could offer d ‘other states an opportunity to examine their own historic underfunding and make equitable changes.

“Seeing the federal government providing money to help, and seeing it included in Build Back Better, says a lot about changing that conversation from that traditional image of what a student is, what a college, ”said Douglas-Gabriel. “To get people to term, we have to support them in these other ways that aren’t always part of the conversation, but they are now. “

The pandemic has heightened the need for creative support. Dr Adriel Hilton, vice chancellor of student affairs and enrollment management at Southern University in New Orleans, said that over the past 18 months he had witnessed the psychological consequences it had on his students.

“It’s great to be back in person, but I think no one is okay,” he said. “It’s hard to have something that comes close to pre-pandemic life in a pandemic. It’s really difficult.”

Thanks to the CARES law, the HEERF and Title III funds, the University of the South has been able to create a full-time resource manager position. The role is entirely to educate students about COVID resources. The need varies from student to student: sometimes it’s a pantry or a board, sometimes a student’s car has broken down and they can’t get to class.

“Let the students know that they are human. We are human, ”said Hilton.

His university also established a bereavement counseling center with a grant from the mayor of New Orleans.

“[Anyone] on campus or off campus can have access to this bereavement center, ”he said.

This counseling center was created as a result of advocacy from the students, professors and staff of the University of the South, who felt the need and pushed for change. Timothy Welbeck, lawyer and interim director of Temple University’s new Center for Anti-Racism, attributes his current role to student advocacy and department leadership.

Welbeck said he plans to address inequalities at his center in three ways. One, through institutional research R1, studies and articles that can shape the discourse. The second phase will aim to make this acquired knowledge “acceptable” to the general public, to make them understand what exactly critical race theory is, and not the “propagandist and catch-all phrase”.

“Finally, what I consider to be one of the most important elements: working with the people of Philadelphia to meet their direct needs,” Welbeck said. “The fight is to level the playing field, achieve fairness, enable our citizens and our institutions to realize their full potential and remove obstacles in their path. We are more powerful than we know, the anti-racism center is an example: the people demanded it.

Liann Herder can be contacted at [email protected].


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