Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blacks & HBCUs (Pt. II: Is it the institutions, or is it us?)

Last week I pointed out some of the misconceptions about HBCUs that I have heard purported by blacks. Maybe these ideas were put in their heads by someone who was "guiding" them, perhaps they come from their own experiences or observed experiences or others. More than likely, however, they are steeped in the negative stereotypes that we as Blacks have endured for years.

But what about the numbers? Men lie, women lie, numbers don't, right? *snicker, eye roll*

So do we do worse at our own schools? Well according to some statistics, such as the one from this USA Today article, the percentage of blacks who graduate from HBCUs within six years averages about 37%. Yes, this is a dismal figure. (I won't go into how I don't believe this is a fair or accurate number, since this does not give consideration for students who transfer, whose education takes longer than 6 years for whatever reason, deaths, etc. We'll just roll with the numbers we've got.) However, our counterparts at PWIs don't fair much better. The national graduation rate is only 41%.

So that brings me to another issue: Is it really the institution we attend, or is it us? The "us" that I speak of is the black community as a whole. Those of "us" who have graduated, HBCU or PWI, do we encourage our classmates and those that come after us to continue working towards their degree? Those of "us" who have dropped out or for whatever reason did not graduate, are we planning on pursuing that degree at some point or have we already found gainful (legal) employment? Those of "us" who are in any sort of leadership capacity: are we extolling the importance of higher education and stressing that their are many possibilities and opportunities that become available through education?

How do we encourage young blacks to stay in school? The Root has an... interesting article on "Making School Cool." Is it enough? Is it effective? What more can be done?

And what, if anything, are we doing for our institutions? Many suffer from lack of funding which leads to a myriad of other issues (of which I am honestly just too lazy/sleepy to get into right now). What contributions are we making?

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