Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The End of the HBCU?

Last week you may have heard the outcries all over the blogosphere and in various op eds surrounding the controversy of Historically Black College and University (HBCU) funding and President Barack Obama. The story was typically framed with language such as "Obama Cuts HBCU Funding" or words to that effect, which, understandably, ignited the black blogosphere into outrage. Unfortunately, as with most "news" that spreads throughout the black community (ie. the government invented AIDS, Tupac is still alive, we lose our right to vote in 90 days if you don't forward this message e-mails), we as a people tend not to do our homework far too often, and seldom check the facts of these and other headlines before we run with them.

We here at The Urban Politico like to know what we're talking about first before we speak. Therefore, upon closer inspection, the facts show us that in 2007 under then President Bush, Congress voted to give $85 million in extra federal money to HBCU's for a 2-year period, terminating automatically at the end of fiscal year 2009. It is notable to observe that this budget line item was already set in place before President Obama took office. So in other words, Obama didn't "cut" anything. It would be accurate to say "Obama Cuts HBCU Funding" if he actually came along and stopped the funding to the HBCU's. But he didn't. So why phrase it that way?

While you ponder that question, it is notable to observe that the Obama Administration did decide to increase student aid funding*1 and increased the direct discretionary funding of HBCU's from $238 million to $250 million. Now granted, this "mere" $12 million increase pales in comparison to the extra $85 million/yr that HBCU's have enjoyed over the past two years, but it is still an increase nonetheless.

Federal funding aside, CNN recently featured an Essence interview regarding the dwindling enrollment at HBCU's and the new proposal from Georgia Senator Seth Harp (R) to combine HBCU's with the Predominantly White Institutions (PWI's) of the state of Georgia as a means to "ease racial tensions while cutting costs."

When Essence asked Carlton E. Brown, president of Clark Atlanta University, what he thought would happen if Senator Harp's proposal were to pass, he replied "I think it would be the beginning of the end for [HBCU's]."

Is this truly the end of our HBCU's?

*1 - The Obama Administration increased federal funding to student aid grants, loans and scholarships to items such as the Pell grant, for example, which supports over 50% of students at HBCU's as compared to 27% of students at PWI's.
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