Report: Funding, Institutional Support Lacking for Historically Black Public Colleges

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by Ronald Roach

With states increasingly boosting post-recession spending to improve their higher education systems, historically Black public universities in four states continue to lag behind predominantly White schools in funding and “policy makers are moving toward funding mechanisms that disproportionately disadvantage” historically Black schools, a new report by the Center for Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania finds.

In “America’s Public HBCUs: A Four State Comparison of Institutional Capacity and State Funding Priorities,” report authors Dr. Marybeth Gasman and William Casey Boland examine historically Black institutions in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and North Carolina and urge reform in state funding and policy to better support the mission of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The recently released report builds on an influential 2008 study by Dr. James T. Minor, who documented the pre-recession condition and “underlying racial disparities in state and federal allocations to HBCUs” in the four states.

The new report utilizes recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to explore HBCU enrollment, state appropriations, and completion data.

“We also drew upon current state appropriations data from state government websites, institutional websites and state education websites to procure advanced degree program information, including specialist and post-master’s programs,” the authors write.

In key findings, the report documents that, while Louisiana has severely cut funding to all of its public four-year institutions, HBCUs have been hit the hardest. In 2012, Grambling State University and Southern University at New Orleans, both HBCUs, received 36 percent and 35 percent less funding, respectively, than they did in 2007. The only predominantly White university in Louisiana that saw as dramatic a funding decline was the University of New Orleans, which experienced a drop of 32 percent.

While some historically Black schools, especially those in North Carolina, have seen a boost in state funding since the recession, on average HBCUs continue to be funded at lower levels than predominantly White institutions (PWIs). State appropriations to historically Black colleges have increased somewhat in Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina, according to the report.

“The recession of 2008 led to deep cuts in state funding for most public higher education institutions, but HBCUs were hit especially hard,” the report says. “HBCUs are more susceptible to economic downturns because a large portion of their funding derives from tuition, and most HBCU students come from low-income households, which have fewer resources to buffer the impact of an economic downturn.”

Gasman, the founding director of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions and higher education professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says that, since Minor’s study in 2008, there’s been little higher education research undertaken to document the conditions and performance of public HBCUs. Minor, the current director of higher education programs at the Southern Education Foundation, was an associate professor of higher education policy at Michigan State University in 2008.

“The data just shows that these institutions are playing this deeply disproportionate role” with respect to Blacks in higher education,” Gasman said.

“What [HBCUs] can do with that is to go to their state government and say, ‘Hey, take a look at this,’ because typically no one’s looking at the numbers,” she added.

In addition, the report found that proposals to close or merge academic programs are falling more heavily on historically Black colleges in the four states than on PWIs. On the admissions side, historically Black public colleges have experienced at least a doubling in Latino student enrollments since 2008, while enrollment of White students generally has declined at those institutions.

 

The report recommends:

 

1)    State governments explore alternatives to enrollment-driven funding mechanisms.

2)    State governments recognize the efficacy and relevance of HBCUs.

3)    States assess program duplication carefully.

4)    States support HBCUs in developing their fundraising capacity.

5)    State governments foster partnerships between HBCUs and predominantly White institutions.

 

For the complete report, click here (http://www.gse.upenn.edu/pdf/cmsi/four_state_comparison.pdf).

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