For an untold number of Black people in this country, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were the catalyst to their success and creating a better life for themselves and their families.
The impact of these institutions hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Biden Administration. This week, the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs is convening in its annual national conference in Washington D.C., to celebrate Black colleges and provide them with the keys to thrive.
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In an exclusive interview with NewsOne, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona emphasized the importance of celebrating HBCUs and empowering these historic institutions that remain very relevant to the higher education landscape.
“HBCUs punch above their weight, they are producing higher percentages of Black excellence than any other University System. We need to lift them up for what they are doing and we need to support them. Not just by words but by actions,” Cardona said during a conversation on Wednesday.
“We’ve provided $6 billion in funds in one year, that’s more than any other administration total. But we are also giving them opportunities to be engaged in programming with different departments and make sure they are eligible for contracts also. We want to support their infrastructure. We want to lift up the sense of community and family that they are.”
HBCUs have been vital to the stability of the Black middle class and have produced some of this country’s brightest minds throughout history. For the Biden Administration, acknowledging these institutions on a national scale should continue to be a priority, officials explained.
“HBCUs are engines of prosperity for the students they serve. Since their founding, these critical institutions have played a role in educating our students to ensure they succeed and receive a first-class education,” Dietra Trent, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities, said in a statement.
“As a proud Hampton graduate, I’m honored to support the growth of our HBCU family at this year’s National HBCU Conference where resources and support will be offered to ensure our HBCUs continue to thrive for generations to come.”
While HBCUs have continued to have a great impact in the U.S., they have also been met with myriad of challenges including going extremely underfunded for decades and being placed in unfortunate situations that are foreign to a disproportionate number of their predominately white collegiate counterparts.
Cardona said that helping HBCUs prosper will have to be a collective effort. And with enrollment numbers increasing over the last few years, there is no better time than now to invest time, money and resources into Black colleges.
“It’s about making sure that, number one, states are paying their fair share. [HBCUs have] been underfunded for decades. It’s not going to be fixed overnight but we have to get the ball moving in the right direction. Number two: Recognizing that in order for their research status to go up so that they can get some of these contracts their infrastructure needs to improve,” Cardona said. “So the president has put forward in his budget almost half a billion dollars to make sure there are supports there. We need Congress to support that as well.”
Cardona continued: “We know that HBCUs have seen an increase in enrollment the last two years. We are proud of that. We want to support them more and we are going to continue to work with them. It’s not just about the money it’s about making sure we are listening and providing them the technical assistance and support that they need to thrive.”
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