How racial inequality in American impacts historically black colleges and universities

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David Campbell/University Photographer

Alabama State University is one of the oldest historically black colleges in the nation.

Lucy Kamlewechi, Staff Reporter

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher education in the United States that were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the African American community. Most of these institutions were founded in the years after the American Civil War and are concentrated in the Southern United States.

From generations to generations, racial inequality has been a prevalent matter of concern in the United States. For blacks, building HBCUs is like a response to racial inequality in the U.S. Today, there are 107 HBCUs with more than 228,000 students enrolled. Fifty-six institutions are under private control, and 51 are public colleges and universities.

With the recent murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many other Black Americans killed by law enforcement, blacks all over the U.S. are campaigning on various levels that their lives matter. Indeed, if black lives matter, so do HBCUs.

Findings have shown that the impacts of racial inequality on HBCUs are overwhelming, especially to black students themselves. Because blacks want to safeguard their lives, HBCUs are the only place where too many black people are able to attend. Their options are extremely limited elsewhere, making HBCUs usually their only plausible option.

Also, according to statistics, most HBCUs — like Morgan State University — are sorely underfunded. They usually receive a small portion of state funding in comparison to their white counterparts. In many states, there are disparities in funding due to the differences between each university’s population, but in the past, HBCUs do not even receive funding that is proportionate to their populations. Other HBCUs do not receive the same amount of funding their white counterparts do, even when they are relatively close in student populations.

Moreover, it has been acknowledged that HBCUs were created in the face of racial inequality with the hopes of giving African Americans an opportunity to receive standard education. Despite this rich history, findings have shown that HBCUs are looked down upon and many graduates and students are expected to be less than exceptional or “not as smart” as students who go to predominantly white institutions (PWIs), as a result of this racial inequality.

Of course there are ways on how racial inequality positively impacts HBCUs. For example, research shows that students who attend HBCUs have the opportunity to learn around others who share the same experiences, which can make them feel more at home than they would at PWIs — allowing them to learn and explore college life without feeling like they are outsiders on their own campus.

Also, HBCUs provide a quality education at a reasonable price, which helps to lower the amount of money students need to take out in loans. According to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), since 54 percent of African American have student loan debt compared to 39 percent of white Americans, getting a degree from an HBCU can go a long way toward closing the wealth gap.

Finally, HBCUs outperform non-HBCU institutions in meeting the needs of low-income, first-generation students. According to UNCF, HBCUs provide a stable and nurturing environment for those most at risk of not entering or completing college: low-income, first generation college students. Many of these students are academically underprepared for college, yet they are precisely the students that the country most needs to obtain college degrees. You should also know that diversity within college graduates is vital because more voices from all corners of the United States make us a better formed, positive and successful society.

It is true that there are advantages of how racial inequality impacts HBCUs, but sadly, according to black Americans, the disadvantages greatly outweigh the advantages. It is simple logic; if presently, there are cases of blacks campaigning that they are not being treated equally as the whites (Black Lives Matter), then how can HBCUs — with their major population comprising of blacks — also be deserving of equality with PWIs?

According to black teens of America, how racial inequality in America has impacted, or still impacts HBCUs, can be summed in just one sentence: as a result of racial inequality, HBCUs will never be treated the same as PWIs. It is no joke; it is an unwholesome fact.