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The HBCU Experience

by Todd A. Smith

A Black Thing

 

By Todd A. Smith

            As another school year comes to an end, high school seniors across the country are contemplating where to spend the next four or more years of their life.  For many, the decision was made months ago, but for others deciding where to pursue higher education can be a life-altering decision.

            As a graduate of two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Southern University and Texas Southern University, the decision to attend a school where the majority of the students looked like me turned into the best years of my life.  The decision to attend a HBCU or a traditional university is different for every aspiring college student, but the life education I received at Southern was simply something that a non-HBCU could probably not give me.

            As a child, watching movies like “School Daze” and televisions shows like “A Different World,” as well as visiting homecoming at schools like Southern, showed me a different side of Black America that I did not see on a daily basis in mainstream media.

            Although I was raised by college educated parents, many of my peers did not come from the same cultural background.  To be able to come to an institution that was filled with Black doctors, lawyers and other professionals gave me a positive image of myself and my community, which as a result gave me the confidence to pursue my academic dreams.

            Furthermore, the education that I received, especially my graduate studies at Texas Southern University, transformed me from a young man with a passion for writing to an entrepreneur with his own media company.

            Despite the excellent educational opportunities that exist at a HBCU, the camaraderie that exists between students and alumni was beyond special.  Meeting people from various socioeconomic backgrounds was a life-changing experience by itself.  To meet people, who had to overcome tremendous financial hardships to attend college, was motivation to take advantage of every opportunity that I was blessed with.

            From football games, to probate shows and fraternity and sorority parties, the HBCU experience is something that I will remember fondly for the remainder of my life. 

            However, because of the tough economic times, many HBCUs are struggling to keep their doors open, and many school leaders say that President Barack Obama’s new budget would cut an estimated $85 million that these schools have relied on since 2007, according to BET.com.  Nevertheless, the White House states that Black colleges will benefit in the long-term from other direct funding, which would increase their funding by approximately $12 million, raising the total HBCU funding to $250 million.

            “The administration is definitely committed to strengthening HBCUs and other colleges and universities that serve minority populations.  And one of the best ways we can do that is by supporting our students,” said assistant secretary of education, Carmel Martin.

            Black college leaders believe that ceasing the current program, however, would mean a reduction of $73 million to their institutions.

            Although Black institutions of higher learning only constitute three percent of American colleges, they confer approximately 20 percent of degrees awarded to Black Americans, according to the United Negro College Fund.  The education received at Black colleges has not only transformed individual lives, but every life that that graduate subsequently comes in contact with.  Without schools like Southern and Texas Southern, my dreams would have never come to fruition, which leads me to wonder how many dreams will not come true if the schools lose their ability to fully serve their community?

 

Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men's Magazine.

This article was published on Thursday 14 May, 2009.
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