Despite the innumerable successes on behalf of our country’s HBCUs, there remains the ever-irritating question—are HBCUs relevant in today’s world? While most vehemently argue in favor of these institutions, there are still some who find them outdated and unnecessary. Now, more than ever, HBCUs are vital in every aspect.
There are financial options found in HBCUs that do not exist at PWIs. By recognizing that a large percent of their student bodies come from families that may not be able to fund a college education, HBCUs are able to remedy financial strife so that students may complete their education. An estimated 70% of black students attending an HBCU qualify for federal Pell Grants and 80% receive Federal Loans. HBCUs benefit disadvantaged students and works to retain them after freshman year. One solid avenue they use to accomplish this is lower education costs.
Historically, HBCUs offer education at a much lower cost with low-income, first-generation students in mind. With several institutions offering tuition beneath $10,000, others with higher costs ensure students receive scholarships, grants, and federal assistance. Howard University, for example, saw 52% of students in 2012 with their financial needs fully met. By doing this, HBCUs may better retain their students and decrease the Racial Wage Gap. This gap, between white and black families, is the amount of debt accrued from higher education loans. Debt, as we all know, can plague families for years. With more graduates leaving HBCUs with lower debts, a large percentage are going on to graduate and doctorate programs.
HBCUs are major players in STEM fields, with institutions nationally recognized as the crowning jewels of their specific programs. Xavier University, for instance, is best known for producing the most black graduates that go on to complete medical school. Spelman College sent the most women on to PhD programs in STEM between 1997 and 2006. There are countless other academic triumphs like these that HBCUs can take pride in, but it is no secret that these schools are traditionally underfunded. Xavier, despite being renowned, has been underfunded for years, and South Carolina State University was even voted to temporarily shut down if it weren’t for the donations of their alumni, students, and political defenders. It is injustices like this that embolden the reasons why we need HBCUs—to remember what was fought for and what still needs fighting for.
HBCUs have been steadfast in their support of black excellence and racial equality in this country. Offering a “stereotype-safe” environment, black students can learn, grow, and become whatever they wish without the strain of racial prejudice. With faith, community, and service as the pillars of all HBCUs, there is a beautiful intertwining of valuable education and morals; these aren’t merely places to go for that piece of paper. The faculty, staff, and overall community work together to become informed, mindful, and crucial members of our society.