#BlackMindsMatter: Legislative Attacks on HBCU’s and Their Impacts on Black Students

By Ayana Albertini-Fleurant
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HBCU’s are the lifeblood of the black community. Making the decision to attend my HBCU, Howard University, was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. At my HBCU I can study a vast array of subjects within Africana or Black studies and learn about the contributions of my people in every academic program offered.  Attending an HBCU helps you feel liberated, empowered, and that you can do anything you put your mind to. Not only that, graduates of HBCUs use their education to give back to their communities.

However, students at HBCU’s are also under attack, even in our idyllic environment. Despite the obvious benefits of these institutions, there have been people in our legislatures that have tried to attack HBCU’s from the inside. In North Carolina, Senate Bill 873, was proposed this past May and generated a fair amount of controversy for its disguised attempts to specifically whitewash and defund three historically black colleges and one other minority serving institution in the state. The bill would force these institutions to cut tuition to $500 a semester ($2,500 for out-of-state students) leaving each school with tens of millions of dollars in loss that would leave them to be inevitably shut down a few years down the road. In addition to that, the bill proposed to rename universities and changing enrollment caps, which destroy the legacies and character of those historically black colleges.

North Carolina isn’t the only place where this is happening.  Several other state legislatures have proposed or enacted measures that have seriously undermined HBCUs:

  • Mississippi former governor, Haley Barbour, proposed to combine three public black colleges in 2009.
  • Louisiana former governor, Bobby Jindal, proposed to merge an HBCU, Southern University with the University in New Orleans in 2011.
  • The University System of Georgia actually decided to merge an HBCU, Albany State University with Darton State College a predominately white college. Proposed in 2015, and set to fully merge January 2017.

It is impossible to advocate for the black struggle and racial equity without fighting for the survival and prosperity of our HBCUs. Many of our civil rights leaders, artists, actresses, writers and even Supreme Court justices are HBCU educated. An attack to an HBCU is an attack on the heart of the black community. It is imperative that students on these campuses put pressure on their legislators to build these institutions up rather than tear them down. Thankfully, as a result of sharp criticism and protest from students and alumni, all of these past proposals have been defeated, and the targeted HBCUs have been dropped from the Senate Bill 873 in North Carolina. However, the merger between Albany State University and Darton State College is currently underway. One of the best ways to get involved with HBCU advocacy is to share your story. Whether you’re a recent grad or beginning your first year, speak out and let the world know how your HBCU has impacted you. Doing this, we create a narrative that leads to stronger HBCUs, breaking down stereotypes that they are “unproductive” or “inefficient” institutions for higher education. In his commencement speech at Howard University, President Obama acknowledged the value of Howard, one among many historically black colleges: “This institution has been the home of many firsts…But its mission has been to ensure those firsts were not the last…The generations of men and women who walked through this yard helped reform our government, cure disease, grow a black middle class, advance civil rights, shape our culture.  The seeds of change — for all Americans — were sown here. “

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