Historically Black Colleges and Universities
As Christopher Lucas notes in his history of American higher education, “the original intent of most of the founders of black colleges was to provide for their clientele an education indistinguishable from that commonly pursued by whites” (1994, p. 162). The Higher Education Act of 1965 (as amended) defines a historically black college or university (HBCU) as:
Any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.
The “prior to 1964” requirement is significant because Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate because of color, race, or national origin; therefore, all institutions of higher education established after the passages of Title VI would have been open to blacks.
The first black college, the Institute for Colored Youth, was founded in 1837 in Philadelphia by Richard Humphreys (1750–1832), a Quaker. The school moved to Cheyney, Pennsylvania, in 1902, and its name was changed to Cheyney Training School for Teachers in 1913. Cheyney was purchased by the state of Pennsylvania in 1921 and awarded its first baccalaureate degree in 1931. Since 1983, the institution has been known as Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.
Private HBCUs were funded by the American Missionary Association, the Freedmen's Bureau, and black church groups, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and the Colored Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Two private HBCUs founded before the Civil War (1861–1865), Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and Wilberforce University in Ohio, are still open and remain in their original locations (Roebuck and Murty 1993). Julian Roebuck and Komanduri Murty (1993) estimate that, between 1865 and 1880, more than two hundred black private institutions were founded in the South and funded by northern missionaries. Although these institutions had normal, teacher training, college, or university in their names, given the high illiteracy rate among blacks at the time, they primarily functioned as elementary and secondary schools.
When the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, there were roughly four million slaves in the United States, and 92 percent of the country's black population lived in the South. With the exception of Tennessee, all southern states prohibited the formal education of both slaves and free blacks. Eric Foner (1988) estimates that more than 90 percent of the adult black population living in the South in 1865 was illiterate. Therefore, there was a pressing demand for education among the South's black population after the war, which greatly influenced the siting of HBCUs, the majority of which are located in the South.
The education of freedmen, poor whites, and refugees was the responsibility of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen's Bureau, established by the federal government in 1865. The Freedmen's Bureau aided the efforts of northern missionary societies to educate former slaves, but did not directly operate any schools. (Foner 1988). In order to placate white southerners, the Freedmen's Bureau coordinated the operation of separate schools for blacks and whites from 1863 to 1870. The result was a racially segregated education system that was in place well before legalized segregated education created a demand for black teachers (Foner 1988). HBCUs, public and private, took on the responsibility of educating black teachers.
The southern location of many HBCUs stymied their development and impeded funding. Because the South had been dependent on slaves for labor and because most freedmen were illiterate, debate arose concerning the appropriate education for the Negro. Page 321 | Top of ArticleNorthern missionaries wanted HBCUs to offer a curriculum that included the liberal arts and the classics, but southerners preferred a vocational curriculum. The curriculum at Hampton University emphasized an industrial education, which consisted of manual labor and trade training, and normal school training. This curriculum became known as the “Hampton Model” and would garner support from industrial philanthropists. The difference between the curricula at public and private HBCUs became less distinct as funding from industrial philanthropists increased.
THE ROLE OF MISSIONARIES AND INDUSTRIAL PHILANTHROPISTS
During the 1880s, the John F. Slater Fund, established by the philanthropist John Fox Slater (1815–1884), offered financial assistance for the development of industrial education for black students, which led to an increase in vocational programs. The Carnegie Foundation, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund, the Julius Rosenwald Fund, and other philanthropic individuals and organizations influenced the curricula at public and private black institutions to include more industrial education. James Anderson (1988) suggests that the increase in industrial education was solely the result of a “pragmatic search for funds” and not a social and educational compromise to the Hampton model.
Anderson disputes the assumption that missionaries did not support industrial education for blacks, although missionaries and industrial philanthropists differed on the purpose of such an education. Missionaries valued industrial education for the sake of job training, but industrialists hoped that industrial education would build character while molding a conservative sociopolitical ideology that would lead to political disfranchisement and economic subordination of the black race (Anderson 1988, p. 67). This difference concerning the value of an industrial education led to public debate between Booker T. Washington (1856–1915) and W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963). The issue was really about who should receive an “industrial education” and who deserved a “higher education.” Both Washington and Du Bois focused on the same group, the black intelligentsia, known as the “talented tenth” (Anderson 1988, p. 104). In any event, without an increase in public support for black higher education, only a few would receive it.
The Morrill land-grant acts, passed in 1862 and 1890 under the sponsorship of Vermont congressman Justin Smith Morrill (1810–1898), allocated federal lands for the establishment of state colleges and universities. The second Morrill Act (1890) prohibited the use of funds authorized under this law to support institutions that restricted admissions based on race, but it allowed states to use funds to create and operate a dual land-grant system. The act provided federal support for the doctrine of “separate but equal” six years before it would be mandated by Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). The legislation required a “just and equitable” division of funds between black and white land-grant institutions and provided funds for white land-grant schools when such schools were established for blacks. Since many white land-grant institutions were struggling financially, states established black land-grant schools so white schools could receive additional funds. All of the segregationist and border states established dual land-grant systems.
Black public land-grant schools did not offer a college curriculum until the mid-1930s (Kuljovich 1994). By the 1940s, the curricular disparities between black and white land-grant schools were stark. Black public colleges did not offer programs in such fields as architecture, journalism, professional business disciplines (accounting, marketing, etc.), engineering, geology, geography, anthropology, or philosophy, and only Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas created master's degree programs for black students (Kuljovich 1994, p. 104). The consequences of the curricular disparities can be seen in Table 1. Of the 103 HBCUs, only twenty-three awarded doctorate degrees by the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century.
THE IMPACT OF DISPARITIES IN FUNDING AND EQUAL ACCESS
Eighty-eight percent of the doctorates awarded by Howard University in 1960 were in the physical sciences (twenty-four degrees, 46%) and life sciences (twenty-two degrees, 42%). However, the percentage of life and physical science doctorates decreased every decade thereafter, and the percentage of doctoral degrees in education increased. HBCUs awarded no doctoral degrees in education during the 1960s; by the1970s, however, 12 percent of doctoral degrees from HBCUs were in education, with 31 percent for the 1980s and more than 40 percent for the 1990s and the 2000s. The relevance of HBCUs is often discussed in terms of the production of undergraduate degrees, as if HBCUs do not have graduate programs. The percentage of blacks receiving bachelor's degrees from HBCUs has decreased, but that is to be expected given that higher education options for blacks have expanded since the civil rights movement.
HBCUs constitute approximately 3 percent of all institutions of higher education in the United States, but they overproduce graduates at every degree level relative to their proportion among all institutions (see Table 2 ). Although the percentage of undergraduate degrees has decreased at both public and private
|Table 1. Of 103 HBCUs operating in 2010, only twenty-three offered doctoral programs. However, the number of doctorates awarded by HBCUs has increased markedly in the last three decades.|
|Doctorates Awarded by Historically Black Colleges and Universities|
|NCES, IPEDS, COMPLETIONS SURVEY BY RACE.|
|Alabama A&M University*||47||97||144|
|Alabama State University+||28||28|
|Bowie State University+||67||67|
|Clark Atlanta University||1||92||352||354||299||1,098|
|Delaware State University*||5||5|
|Fayetteville State University+||27||27|
|Grambling Stats University+||4||53||60||117|
|Jackson Stats University+||15||75||358||448|
|Meharry Medical College||9||34||68||109||220|
|Morehouse College of Medicine||23||23|
|Morgan State University+||15||45||255||315|
|Norfolk State University+||19||19|
|North Carolina A&T Stats University*||2||90||92|
|Prairie View A&M University*||19||19|
|South Carolina State University*||18||104||248||370|
|Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge*||4||55||59|
|Tennessee State University*||148||448||596|
|Texas Southern University+||5||142||169||221||537|
|University of Maryland Eastern Shore*||3||15||42||60|
|Total number of degrees||52||496||1.215||1.784||3.585||7.132|
institutions, the number of first professional degrees awarded by private and public HBCUs has increased. The percentage of doctoral degrees awarded by public HBCUs increased to 10 percent by the 2000s from 3 percent in the 1980s. This is significant because only twenty-three HBCUs awarded doctoral degrees in the 2000s. Doctorates awarded by private HBCUs are more diverse. However, the majority of the doctorates awarded by public HBCUs were in education. Because money is the most fundamental resource for providing student programs and services (Leslie and Heubert 1988), the disparities in curricula can be attributed to inequalities in funding.
The impact of funding on programs and curriculum is best illustrated with an analysis of black land-grant institutions. Land-grant schools have four educational tasks: resident instruction, military training, extension service, and research and experimentation (Kuljovich 1993–1994, p. 76). Funding for resident instruction came from federal funds appropriated under the second Morrill Act and the Nelson Act, which provided funds for the training of vocational teachers; funds were distributed based on racial proportions. Because the Morrill and Nelson acts did not allow for the construction of buildings and because state appropriations were small, even states with large populations of blacks did not receive sufficient funds to provide the resources necessary for an “equal” education for black students.
Black students were not given equal access to Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs, for which funding was awarded to white land-grant schools in 1916. In 1942, West Virginia State University became the first black land-grant school to establish an ROTC program. By 1956, Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi still did not have ROTC programs for black students. Cooperative education was supported by the Smith-Lever Act (1914), research and experimentation by the Hatch Act (1887), and rural research by the Purnell Act (1925). All states initially withheld the funding directed by these acts from their black land-grant institutions, which meant that black schools were excluded from publicly funded research, a necessary component for a graduate curriculum.
States also discriminated in the allocation of state funds to black land-grant schools. Until 1919, Louisiana's state constitution limited the appropriation of state funds to Southern A&M University to $10,000 (Kuljovich 1993–1994). The disparities in the allocation of state and federal funds to black land-grant institutions and consequential curriculum development led to occupational segregation for the black professional class, among which 60 percent were teachers compared to 20
|Table 2. HBCUs constitute approximately 3 percent of all institutions of higher education in the US, but they overproduce graduates at every degree level relative to their proportion among all institutions.|
|Percentage of Degrees Awarded by HBCUs by Level|
|NCES, IPEDS, COMPLETIONS SURVEY BY RACE.|
|Public institutions||Doctorate degrees||Female||3%||6%||11%|
|First professional degrees||Female||10%||12%||14%|
|Private institutions: nonprofit||Doctorate degrees||Female||21%||16%||12%|
|First professional degrees||Female||20%||18%||22%|
|All HBCUs||Doctorate degrees||Female||8%||10%||12%|
|First professional degrees||Female||14%||15%||19%|
percent for whites (Kuljovich 1993–1994). Funding disparities also had an effect on the number of black doctors and lawyers available to serve the black community. Of the HBCUs that awarded medical degrees as of 2000, only one is a land-grant institution, Florida A&M University; of the HBCUs that awarded law degrees, only two are land-grant schools, Florida A&M University and Southern University and A&M College (see Table 3 ).
If the focus is shifted from HBCU land-grant schools to the broader category of HBCUs, the disparities in state funding remain, although they are not as severe. Thomas Sav (2010) uses data from the Integrated Post-secondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to detect discrimination in state funding between traditionally white institutions and HBCUs. He finds that the discrimination attributed to differential treatment decreased 42 percent ($2.2 million) between 1995 and 2006. Additionally, trend analysis suggests funding parity could be achieved in three decades.
Table 4 presents trends in federal research funding for HBCUs. In general, research funding to HBCUs was less than 5 percent of expenditures for each category and for total expenditures. This lack of research funding may be a function of stymied curriculum development resulting from the earlier influence of industrial philanthropists.
THE ROLE OF HBCUs IN THE US EDUCATION SYSTEM
The US Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Fordice (1992) has generated new concerns about the role of HBCUs in the American higher education system. In 1975, Jake Ayers initiated a class action lawsuit on behalf of his son and other black citizens, claiming that Mississippi was operating a dual public higher education system through admissions, employment, and funding policies. A 1987 ruling found Mississippi to be in compliance, but it was overturned on appeal in 1992. The 1992 ruling held that the admissions policy, duplication of programs, mission assignments scheme, and the operation of all eight public higher education institutions continues to perpetuate the de jure system. The decision does not suggest that HBCUs be closed, but that continued operation of all five historically white institutions and three HBCUs must be “educationally justified.”
|Table 3. Of the HBCUs that awarded medical degrees as of 2000, only one is a land-grant institution; of the HBCUs that awarded law degrees, only two are land-grant schools.|
|Law and Medical Degrees Awarded by Historically Black Colleges and Universities, 1970–2000|
|NCES, IPEDS, COMPLETIONS SURVEY BY RACE.|
|Medical sciences||Florida A&M University*||828||167||23||1,018|
|Meharry Medical College||892||749||357||231||2,229|
|Morehouse College of Medicine||258||206||54||518|
|Texas Southern University+||488||295||783|
|Xavier University of Louisiana||529||349||878|
|Law||Florida A&M University*||232||232|
|North Carolina Central University+||478||363||151||59||1,051|
|Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge*||115||539||224||65||943|
|Texas Southern University+||734||588||130||116||1,568|
|Table 4. Highlights trends in federal research funding for HBCUs.|
|Federally Financed Academic Research and Development Expenditures at HBCUs, 1980–2009|
|NATIONAL CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING STATISTICS (NCSES).|
|Interdisciplinary or other sciences||0.0%||0.7%||0.7%||2.7%||1.2%||4.0%||1.5%||3.4%||4.9%|
|Math and computer sciences||0.1%||0.3%||0.3%||2.0%||2.0%||3.0%||0.3%||1.0%||1.4%|
Roland Fryer and Michael Greenstone (2010) examine the consequences, defined as labor-market and non-labormarket outcomes, of attending an HBCU by comparing estimates of HBCU graduates in 1976 to those in 1996. Based on the relative changes between attending an HBCU in the 1970s versus attending an HBCU in the 1990s, Fryer and Greenstone conclude that HBCU attendance is associated with weaker earnings, enthusiasm, and performance compared to non-HBCU attendance. They observe that “the point estimates suggest a 20 percent decline in wages, a 13 percent decline in the fraction of students who would attend the same college again, and substantial declines in the leadership and social interaction indices. … only donations to national charities increased between the two C&B classes” (Fryer and Greenstone 2010, p. 139).
There are several flaws in Fryer and Greenstone's argument. First, the decline in wages may be a function of more HBCU graduates choosing public-service occupations, or finding a more diverse set of occupational choices that are low-paying (the authors allude to this point in a footnote, p. 138). Fryer and Greenstone also fail to analyze changes in occupations of HBCU graduates as a possible explanation for the decline in wages. In addition, a decline in the number of students reporting that they would choose an HBCU again is not necessarily a function of the activities of HBCUs. Rather, it may result from the integration of higher education. During the Jim Crow era, HBCUs were the “only” choice open to black students, since white southern schools, especially state public institutions, did not enroll Page 325 | Top of Articleblack students. In fact, many southern states would pay black students to attend northern white institutions, which was a viable option for black students with family in the North. The increase in the percentage of HBCU graduates who live in black neighborhoods could be a function of residential segregation resulting from mortgage-loan discrimination. Finally, declines in the leadership index and in social interaction could be explained by integration's having increased opportunities for blacks to engage with others socially and by a growth in leadership opportunities for black students. It is possible that HBCUs were not the primary avenue toward the development of leadership skills among blacks. Fryer and Greenstone are meticulous in their empirical analysis, but fall short of offering explanations, other than those that suggest that HBCUs and their students are of a lower quality.
Gregory Price, William Spriggs, and Omari Swinton (2011) analyze the Duncan socioeconomic index (SEI), a measure of permanent income, and the long-run effect of attending an HBCU. They also hypothesize that black identity and self-esteem have an influence on labor-market earnings. They conclude that the effect of graduating from an HBCU was positive and significant for the SEI—except for the late 1970s—and for black identity, but negative for self-esteem. They further conclude that HBCUs afford “graduates relatively superior long-run labor market outcomes” and that “HBCUs have a comparative advantage in nurturing the self-image, self-esteem and identity of graduates, which theoretically matters for labor market outcomes” (Price, Spriggs, and Swinton 2011, p. 127). The major flaw in this argument may be the use of the SEI, which does not easily allow for changes in an occupation's educational requirement or earnings.
Both papers misleadingly report that Fordice requires Mississippi to justify the existence of HBCUs. However, Fordice states:
The court should inquire and determine whether the State's retention and operation of all eight higher educational institutions in an attempt to bring itself into constitutional compliance actually affects student choice and perpetuates the de jure system, … whether maintenance of each of the universities is educationally justifiable, and whether one or more of them can practicably be closed or merged with other existing institutions. Though certainly closure of one or more institutions would decrease the system's discriminatory effects, the present record is inadequate to demonstrate whether such action is constitutionally required. (United States v. Fordice, 505 US 720 )
There is no specific reference to HBCUs, nor should the passage be applied only to HBCUs. Additionally, both papers fail to ask, “What is the role of HBCUs in the intergenerational mobility of blacks?” This may be the most important question with respect to the effects of attending or graduating from an HBCU.
A comparison of Figure 1 to Table 5 suggests that one of the benefits of attending an HBCU is the percentage of black graduates relative to the enrollment share
|Table 5. Even as the share of undergraduate blacks enrolled at HBCUs has decreased, the share of HBCU graduates who go on to complete doctorates has remained relatively high.|
|Percentage of Black Doctorates with a Bachelor's Degree from an HBCU|
|SURVEY OF EARNED DOCTORATES, NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION.|
|Math and computer sciences||50%||19%||26%||9%||37%||15%|
|Religion and theology||29%||19%||9%||8%||13%||12%|
|Arts and music||32%||30%||31%||18%||13%||15%|
|Architecture and environmental design||0%||10%||0%||14%||0%||14%|
|Business and management||43%||19%||30%||17%||18%||14%|
|Communication and librarianship||40%||18%||30%||26%||24%||19%|
|Social service professions||55%||35%||33%||33%||27%||25%|
|Vocational studies and home economics||61%||0%||33%||50%||42%||25%|
|Other nonsciences or unknown disciplines||45%||33%||35%||12%||23%||22%|
of blacks that go on to complete a doctorate. Even as the share of undergraduate blacks enrolled at HBCUs decreased, the percentage of baccalaureate degrees awarded by HBCUs did not. Additionally, the share of HBCU graduates who go on to complete doctorates has remained relatively high. This is probably the most understated accomplishment of HBCUs, especially given their low graduation rates. As policy makers increasingly require colleges and universities to produce graduates who are prepared for the workforce, HBCUs will have to do a better job of graduating the students they admit—that is, they must increase their graduation rates, which for most HBCUs have been below 50 percent since the late 1990s.
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Price, Gregory N., William Spriggs, and Omari H. Swinton. 2011. “The Relative Returns to Graduating from a Historically Black College/University: Propensity Score Matching Estimates from the National Survey of Black Americans.” Review of Black Political Economy 38 (2): 103–130.
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Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe (2013)
Bennett College, NC