What White Colleges Owe Black Colleges: Private donations alone won't save HBCUs. What about money from white institutions?

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Author: Adam Harris
Date: Sept. 17, 2021
From: The Chronicle of Higher Education(Vol. 68, Issue 2)
Publisher: Chronicle of Higher Education, Inc.
Document Type: Essay
Length: 1,739 words
Lexile Measure: 1150L

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AMERICA IS HOME to more prestigious colleges than anywhere else in the world. And while it is true, in some respects, that any student can attend any institution, the effect of more than a century of racial caste in higher education has been felt as a wave rather than just a gut punch. It ripples into the present. Black people were shackled at the beginning, and once loosed, were expected to make up stolen ground on their own; Black colleges were, too. A damning picture is the result: Black students and colleges are trying to catch up, but they have been held back for so long.

There are a couple of indicators that can predict when a college might close: It has fewer than one thousand students; it has a small endowment; it is in a rural area; it has difficulty raising money. Dozens of the about 100 HBCUs still operating fall into some if not all of these buckets, including some of those that receive state funds. Black colleges are resilient; they have made their way through more than 150 years of oppression. But they are not invincible.

Each year, there seems to be a new Black college that must prove its viability. In early 2019, that baton fell to a small college in North Carolina.

There are two historically Black women's colleges in the United States, Spelman College, in Atlanta, and Bennett College, in Greensboro, N.C. In 2016, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed Bennett on probation because it did not have enough money. The technical term for the association's complaint was a lack of "financial stability." The private college, which is heavily tuition dependent, had run budget deficits for seven of the previous 11 years, and it was down to a little more than 400 students from a peak enrollment of nearly 800 students in 2009.

The college started making changes. It appointed Phyllis Worthy Dawkins as its interim president. It launched a fund-raising campaign, and it began looking for ways to increase its student body.

Bennett remained on probation for two years until, in 2018, SACS decided that it had seen enough. There was nothing the college could do, in its estimation, to right the ship. On December 11, leaders of the association informed Dawkins that they would be revoking the college's accreditation. The university was caught flat-footed. It had raised $4.2 million in the 2017-18 school year and had increased its enrollment by 26 percent to just under 500 students. It thought it was well on the way to financial stability. "There's no one way to demonstrate...

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