Higher Education

What can be done to improve the success of black male students?

Did you know that a black male is more likely than any other group to be placed in special education classes, with 80 percent of all special education students being Black or Hispanic males?

Learning disabilities aside, black students (and particularly boys) experience disconnection when it comes to the authority figures in their classrooms. The K-12 teaching profession is dominated by white women, many who are very qualified and very interested in helping all their students succeed but lack the first-hand experience needed to connect with their Black male students.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the disadvantages that Black boys bring to their schools aren’t corrected in K-12 classrooms, they are furthered. As they get older, they are continually marginalized in their schools and societies – given less-than-adequate access to the resources that their already advantaged peers receive. While the connection between items like reading scores and civic responsibility may not seem well defined on the surface, they are related and that relationship is integral to turning the tide for Black boys in America

It has been shown over and over again that punishment for Black boys – even first-time offenders – in schools is harsher than any other demographic. Consider these facts:

Schools with majority Black students also tend to have lower amounts of teachers who are certified in their degree areas. A U.S. Department of Education report found that in schools with at least 50 percent Black students, only 48 percent were certified in the subject, compared with 65 percent in majority white schools. In English, the numbers were 59 and 68 percent, respectively and in science, they were 57 percent and 73 percent.

No wonder they aren’t in college

These trends are not conducive to improving the numbers of young black men who are able to attend college. In fact, the numbers are dismal when it comes to black young men who attend and graduate from colleges in the U.S. Statistically speaking, black men have the lowest test scores, the worst grades and the highest dropout rates – in K-12 education, and in college too.  The recognition of this educational crisis has led to some strong initiatives targeted at young black men with the intention of guiding them through the college years and to successful, productive lives that follow.

Which is why college motivation within and without the black community is so vital for these young men. At this point in the nation’s history, they are in the greatest need for the lifestyle change that higher education can provide, and not just for individual growth, but also for the benefit of the entire nation.

It is clear that improving the successful admission into college and subsequent acquisition of professional degrees would go a long way toward improving the outlook for these young men in crisis.  But, change needs to start early on and involve the entire school system as well as the community as a whole.

Do you think earlier targeting when it comes to young Black men and higher education would impact the number of students?

Why Are Girls Surpassing Boys in College Achievement?

By Matthew Lynch

Nationally, over 57 percent of college attendees are female when public and private school stats are combined. Females have been consistently edging ahead of their male classmates since the late 1970s when the percentages flip-flopped. Aside from all-female schools, there are others that have marked disproportionate numbers. Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena has nearly 96 percent females in attendance, and the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis has over 93 percent. At Indiana University Northwest, located just outside Gary, 67 percent of the student population is female.

These statistics beg the question: What are K-12 educators doing wrong when it comes to preparing young men for a college education?

It Starts before College

According to Dr. Leonard Sax, too many boys are struggling in schools today. Sax proposes that five factors are responsible for the decline in school performance among boys: video games, prescription drugs, endocrine disruptors, devaluation of masculinity in popular culture, and teaching methods.  Sax and many others believe that video games disengage boys from real-world pursuits. Mind-numbing keyboards and flashing images have a seductive effect on the brain.  Medication for ADHD may be damaging motivational centers in boy’s brains, and the harmful effects of estrogens from food and plastic containers are upsetting the balance of boys’ endocrine systems.  The athletic, scholarly male TV heroes of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s have been replaced with Bart Simpson. These and other shifts in modern culture are responsible for devaluing traditional masculine strengths.  Additionally, Sax claims that the ways in which children are being educated today simply turn boys off from schooling.

Males who are completing a four year degree take longer than women to do so, and tend to socialize more in college, study less than women, and have poorer grades. The difference in male-female college/university enrollment reflects performance differences that are evident well before college attendance.

Money aside, there are other pitfalls in a disproportionate number of men going to college. Statistics show that marriages where the couples have differing education levels more often end in divorce than couples with the same educational achievements. And even before divorce is an option, women who set college educational goals may not want to settle for men with less motivation – at least when it comes to academics. If this trend continues, social dynamics may be impacted.

Minority Men Even Worse Off

The problem escalates when race is taken into account.  Recently, the Black Star Project published findings that just 10 percent of eighth-grade Black boys in the U.S. are considered “proficient” in reading. In urban areas like Chicago and Detroit, that number was even lower. By contrast, the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress found that 46 percent of white students are adequate readers by eighth grade, and 17 percent of Black students as a whole are too. The achievement gap between the two races is startling, but the difference between the NAEP report on Black students as a whole and the Black Star findings of just Black boys is troubling too. It is not simply Black children in general who appear to be failing in the basics – like literacy; it is the boys.

So, we must ask ourselves why boys seem to be falling behind academically?  More importantly, what steps need to be taken in order to reverse this trend?

photo credit: Adikos via photopin cc

Click here to read all our posts concerning the Achievement Gap.

How much trouble are HBCUs really in?

According to essence.com, the plight of HBCUs is quite serious. From finance issues to declining graduation rates, some of the latest stats regarding how well, or maybe bad, HBCUs are doing is quite alarming. How much trouble are HBCUs really in?

By way of of a study published in Newsweek, “fundraising is a major problem for HBCUs.”

The study gives a comparison of the two of the nation’s “richest” schools in terms of how they are sectioned. Howard University receives nearly $590 million from the government, which on the surface, seems like a lot of money.

But compared to the funding that Brown University receives, Howard is dwarfed. Brown is on the receiving end of over $3 billion in government funding each year.

Brown has a bustling alumni base that donates generously. Not saying that Howard doesn’t as they certainly have proud alumni. Yet the differences are hard to miss.

Moving further along in the study, a new book suggests that HBCUs are seriously on the way out. There are currently 104 HBCUs, but as the book predicts, that number will dwindle down to just 35 soon.

Then there is the declining graduation rate and enrollment numbers at HBCUs and the peril is nearly tangible.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has a plan to underpin HBCUs by funding them with over $25 billion. That still may not be enough.

Some of our nation’s best minds have come out of HBCUs. Saving them should be at the top of our list of educational priorities and we should fight to find new ways to make these schools relevant.

Read all of our posts about HBCUs by clicking here.

Diverse Conversations: Alternate Pathways to the College Presidency

In the past, college presidents from other schools and college vice presidents have most often ascended the ranks to fill empty presidential seats. While this still happens about 19 and 25 percent of the time, respectively, other leaders like provosts and deans are increasingly being considered to fill the college president vacancies. Some schools even search outside the college community to find leaders from other industries that fit the bill. There is really no hiring formula that applies to all college president spots and a “qualified” candidate could feasibly jump several levels of hierarchy to claim the spot.

Lately the academy has turned to former military officers to help lead their institutions. Recently, I sat down with Gen. Charles Krulak, president of Birmingham-Southern College to speak to him about how he used his distinguished career in the military to transition to a successful career in academia.

Q: What drove your decision to enter academia following your military career?

A: I did not actually join academia right after my military career. Rather, I first became the chairman and CEO of an international bank. Then I joined the board of a professional football team here in the United States and a professional soccer club in the United Kingdom, as well as the boards of Union Pacific and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. It was only after all those activities that I realized that what I missed more than anything was the relationship I had in the U.S. Marine Corps with the young men and women of today. The desire to reconnect with the next generation of leaders led me to seek a college presidency.

Q: Why did you choose Birmingham-Southern College?

A: Interestingly, I had never even been to the state of Alabama, nor had I ever heard of Birmingham-Southern. My name had come up in presidential searches for three other colleges or universities when I was invited to visit the city of Birmingham on an unrelated matter. While I was here, a friend who knew I was looking for a new challenge told me about BSC, which was currently looking for a new president. My wife and I visited campus and we spent six hours on an individual tour in which we replicated all the activities we had experienced while going through the interview process elsewhere. At the end of those six hours, we knew without a doubt that BSC was the place for us. Why? First off, the quality of the students. We found great young men and women of character who were clearly more driven to serve on Main Street than to profit on Wall Street. Second, we met a remarkable, selfless faculty who truly believes that the education they provide can and should be life-changing. Third, I encountered a staff who clearly saw that their main purpose was to serve the student and the faculty members who teach the students. All in all, there was a unique sense of family that I found at no other campus.

Q: How has your military background influenced your presidency?

A: As a military officer, I spent a lifetime around men and women who truly reflected the diversity of our nation. While BSC is a welcoming campus that has always strived for diversity, when I arrived, I didn’t encounter the magnitude of diversity I was accustomed to. That has now become a priority for the whole college, and we’re taking proactive steps to address the situation. Although we’ve just started out, we’ve become a more representative campus in a very short time, and that includes students, faculty, and staff. For instance, in the class that matriculated this fall, 22 percent identified as Asian American, Hispanic, African American, Pacific Islander, Native American, or multiracial.
Another thing: the military is often seen as a very hierarchical organization with little room for consultation or discussion. The reality is totally different. And so I’ve tried since arriving at the college to make sure communications remain open and to strive for transparency and informed debate, especially between administrators and the faculty. I really want to make sure I get input from the broadest possible perspective, especially as we shape the college’s future.

Q: What can higher education learn from the military, and vice-versa?

A: The biggest takeaway is that at the end of the day, character counts. The effectiveness of a professor or a staff member—or the president!—is directly related to her or his strength of character, moral courage, and integrity. We need to remember that our role is not just to prepare students mentally, but also to develop their strength of character, for that’s what will sustain them when they’re in the “real world.” The military, on the other hand, could learn a lot from higher education. From an administrative perspective, higher ed. has shown me how to slow down and value the process, especially when it comes to shared governance. From an educational one, we need to remember that there’s a huge difference between simply training young people—that is, loading them up with specific knowledge—and truly educating them to be critical thinkers, problem-solvers, and connectors of ideas. That’s what colleges like Birmingham-Southern do so well, and it’s why the U.S. will continue to be a leader in innovation well into the future.

Q: As a former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you’re clearly a strong leader. What do we need to do to create the next generation of leaders?

A: First off, I believe that leaders are made and not born; that you can in fact learn leadership. Also, leaders must have a foundation and that foundation is a strength of character. Thus, as you’re developing young leaders, you must start with that foundation and then build it up from there. The specific traits, methods, and even “tricks” that help make leadership effective are nothing without that basis in character, which is why I feel that’s one of the most important things we help develop as educators.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: What spare time? Seriously, along with my “day job,” I attend almost every sporting event, performance, and other event on this campus. I love being out there to support the students! And then there’s travel to visit alumni and spread the word about BSC in other cities. My wife and I love to read, do crosswords, and watch movies. But the reality is, at least 90 percent of my time is spent on campus.

We would like to thank General Krulak for participating in this interview.


Queering Campuses Prompts Reflection, Reform for Universities

Note: The following guest post comes to us courtesy of Jacob Bell, a junior at the University of Maryland pursuing a dual degree in journalism and general biology. He currently works as the staff writer and web content manager for Student Voice and is a general assignment reporter for the University of Maryland’s student newspaper, The Diamondback. Jacob is also the features chair of “Stories Beneath the Shell,” which is an online multimedia publication. You can learn more about Jacob by connecting with him through LinkedIn or following him on Twitter, @realjacobbell.

The word ‘queer’ can mean many things. It can be a noun or an adjective, derogatory or empowering, a reference to gender and sexual identity or a departure from normalcy. It can also be a verb. “To queer something,” according to Dr. Charlie Glickman, a sexuality educator of nearly 25 years, “is to take a look at its foundations and question them.”

For Alex Borsa, a junior molecular biophysics and women’s, gender and sexuality studies double major at Yale University, it is the verb form of queer which matters most. As the president of the university’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Student Cooperative, which serves as the umbrella organization for all of Yale’s LGBTQ groups, Borsa works to increase visibility of queer and marginalized students and make the campus a safer, more inclusive environment.

Borsa achieves these goals, in part, through his participation with IvyQ, an annual, inter-Ivy League LGBTQ conference that attracts 300 to 500 attendees. The conference advocates social organization, political activism and community building among LGBTQ students and groups.

“It is the only time that students are in such a large space comprised of almost only LGBTQ people,” Borsa said. “Being at a social event with 500 queer people is something most people don’t get to experience, [and] does a lot to change people. It was probably the single most transformative process I’ve been to in my college experience.”

Yale hosted the 2013 installment of the IvyQ conference, which has made its way to a different Ivy League school each year since its inception in 2010. Borsa served as a volunteer coordinator for the event, and assisted former Yale conference chair Hilary O’Connell with event production. In spite of a blizzard that struck New Haven, Connecticut, the same weekend as the conference, the Yale IvyQ team was able to deliver an event true to the mission of IvyQ, according to Borsa.

The 2013 conference offered light entertainment, such as dances, lunches and group breakout sessions, as well as 30 to 40 formal colloquiums and workshops from a series of students and guest speakers about topics including gender activism, asexuality, and the meaning of the LGBTQ community now versus in previous decades.

“These are always going to be issues,” Rebby Kern, the media communications and programs manager for Campus Pride, the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to making higher education more LGBT-friendly, said. “But if we can come to a place where we can talk about these issues … in a safe environment, I feel we’ve done our job as far as a movement.”

The conference also prompts discussion on issues, such as class, privilege, mental health, race and racism, that are present across many colleges and universities and affect marginalized groups related to or outside of the LGBT spectrum.

These discussions play a large role in IvyQ’s ability to “queer the campus,” or “challenge, question and deconstruct the status quo,” of the host school, Borsa said.
And as the number and diversity of the voices contributing to the conversation increases, so does the pressure on higher education to improve existing systems.

“I think student voice means not being afraid to challenge large institutions, even the administration itself, on how we think Yale should be bettered,” Borsa added.

In April, Yale held a weekend-long mental health and wellness event to address complaints from students and groups like IvyQ regarding the slow response times and lack of information coming from its Mental Health and Counseling Department, which 22 percent of the student body visits at least once per year, according to a 2011 report.

In the same month, Yale also held Take Back the Night, an event where students shared sexual experiences through speeches, poetry and song to raise awareness about sexual violence and community respect.

“For me personally, the idea of institutional commitment is the big thing,” D. Andrew Porter, a summer fellow at Campus Pride, said. “ [As a movement], we’re not just talking about LGBTQ students, and that’s causing campuses to look at all students who fall under that big umbrella word, ‘diversity.’”

The next IvyQ conference will be held in the fall of 2014 at Dartmouth College, which has received news coverage and student criticism in the past year concerning the school’s handling of homophobia, racism and sexism both on campus and in Dartmouth Greek life. In February, students presented the Freedom Budget, a sweeping reform that enumerated more than 70 actions the college could take that would help confront and diminish discrimination.

The school’s president, Philip J. Hanlon, and then interim provost, Martin Wybourne, released a statement in the wake of the Freedom Budget outlining steps the administration planned to take to address the students’ suggestions, such as allocating millions of dollars to hire and attract a more diverse campus faculty, and expanding a university program that supports minority groups in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

By April, however, student dissatisfaction was not quelled and resulted in protests outside the president’s office and the administration building.

For Nathen Huang, a senior psychology major at Columbia University and leader of Columbia’s IvyQ organization, Dartmouth’s hosting of the conference comes at an opportune time, one in which the school’s administration is primed to listen to the voices of campus students.

“Student voice is the opportunity to offer insights to improve the community or build new relationships that have never been explored before,” Huang said. “Even if not every one who goes to IvyQ comes from the activist community, there are also people who [are involved in other ways], and they’re able to express their own ideas and opinions.”

Going forward, Borsa, Huang and fellow IvyQ members want to increase access to the conference through additional funding so more people can contribute to the discussion. They also hope the organization continues to spark conversation between university officials and students about how to better educational environments.

“It’s important for everyone to think of these things,” Borsa said. “That doesn’t mean you have to be on the front lines of everything, but it does mean that it’s important to think about how social factors shape your everyday life. IvyQ challenges people to see things in a different way.”

(Dartmouth’s Office of Pluralism and Leadership did not respond to Student Voice’s request for comment before this story’s publication).


2 Reasons Colleges Need Athletes as Minority Mentors

When it comes to getting more minorities into college, and then graduating them, there are a lot of different ideas out there. Stronger high school recruiting, better guidance programs for first-generation students, and more minority faculty members are just a few of the ways to make college campuses more diverse to the benefit and success of everyone.

Having strong minority role models as mentors is another, and perhaps the most powerful idea of them all. Successful people who look like the students a particular college or university is trying to graduate, and who come from a similar background, can leave a lasting impression and inspire students to similar heights.

One particular group of minority mentors that I feel should be getting even more involved in the minority recruiting and mentorship process is student athletes. Whether still athletes at the school, or alumni, this particular subset of minority mentors should play an important role in graduating other traditionally disadvantaged students. Here are a few reasons why I think so:

  1. Many of them have powerful, relatable life stories.

Athletes often seem like larger-than-life superstars while they are on campus. But many of them have had personal lives that are relatable and inspirational to everyone else.

One great example of a college-athlete-turned-minority-mentor is The Ohio State University alum Maurice Clarett. The former college running back has taken on a new role as both a cautionary tale, and inspiration, to other young people. If his name sounds familiar, it is because his claim to fame was not just on the football field or as a national champion in the sport. Clarett served four years in prison for aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon. It was behind bars that he started reading up on personal development and ways to grow beyond a delinquent and even ways to rise above his association with being a football star.

Today he talks with other college athletes about things like personal responsibility and being accountable for actions, no matter their upbringing. Clarett has visited athletes at Alabama, Notre dame, Tennessee and Mississippi State. He recently spoke with the national champion Florida State football team and acknowledged that many minority college athletes come from home environments that leave them “undeveloped” and without the skills needed to function successfully in life. Taking advantage of the resources available on college campuses and determining to be better than life’s circumstances are two lessons that Clarett tries to pass along to the people he mentors.

A story like Clarett’s is so much more powerful than the seemingly-empty warnings from adults on college campuses, many of whom look nothing like the students they are trying to influence and have no shared life experiences. By finding ways to tap into the stories of athletes, colleges can give their students a more impactful way of committing to success.

  1. Athletes themselves can acquire necessary life skills from like-minded mentors.

Traditionally getting into college on an athletic scholarship has been a way that minorities have been able to break onto college campuses, particularly if they came from educational environments that simply did not offer the same resources as advantaged peers. I’d argue that getting these athletes to graduation day is simply not enough; a whole other realm of life skills is needed to ensure that they are successful long after their athletic playing days have passed. When the cheers die down and the attention turns to the more practical things in life, these student athletes need ground to stand on. Pairing them up with mentors, or at the very least bringing in former athletes to share their after-college success stories, is a great way to inspire greatness that lasts a lifetime.

Leadership. Teamwork. Hard work. Earning a “win.” Losing gracefully. All of these are lessons that college athletes know in the context of their respective sports. Translating that to life beyond college can be challenging but can be made much easier with the help of mentors that have a common understanding with the students they address. Schools should make this as much a priority as recruiting minority students to sports and academic programs. Colleges and universities have a responsibility to their students to prepare them for all aspects of life and proper mentorship can be a necessary building block in that process.

Focusing on recruiting more athlete mentors for minority students is a somewhat unconventional option, but it just might work.

How do you think colleges can best mentor minority students?

Learning Upgrade launches interactive whiteboard courses

New Teacher Upgrade math and ELA lessons combine a front-of-class solution with individual instruction using songs, videos, and games.

(SAN DIEGO, CA) November 4, 2015 – Learning Upgrade today launched new whiteboard courses to provide a whole-class solution that make lessons convenient, rigorous, and collaborative for teachers.

Teacher Upgrade courses offer a new way for teachers to engage with an entire class of students through interactive, whole-class activities accompanied by differentiated individual lessons. Each Teacher Upgrade lesson incorporates exciting songs, videos, and games that engage even the most reluctant students. Teachers play the lessons using a computer and a data projector or interactive whiteboard, such as a Smart Board or Promethean board.  Students solve problems by pressing buttons or moving objects on the screen with a pen or finger.

With more than 500 standards-aligned lessons that support student mastery, educators can easily launch Teacher Upgrade from the “students” or “courses” tab on their teacher dashboard. With quick access to high quality lessons that cover every standard, teachers are able to avoid searching for content and focus more time on effective teaching.  Teacher Upgrade includes every lesson from Math Upgrade K–8, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra; as well as English Upgrade 1–5, Reading Upgrade, and Comprehension Upgrade courses.

“Teachers have asked for a simple way to access all of our musical lessons for whole-class instruction. We are excited to offer Teacher Upgrade to meet their needs,” said Vinod Lobo, co-founder and CEO of Learning Upgrade. “Providing teachers with rigorous lessons that engage all levels of learning abilities and styles is paramount. The new Teacher Upgrade lessons are a great way to help a wide variety of students—including special needs students and English learners—reach mastery at their grade level.”

For more information about Learning Upgrade, or to register for complimentary access to all of their resources, visit them online at www.learningupgrade.com.

About Learning Upgrade

Founded in 1998 by educators, musicians, artists and programmers in San Diego, Learning Upgrade designs innovative, engaging lessons to support struggling students in reading and math. Through the incorporation of songs, video, games, and educational research, Learning Upgrade has helped more than 1 million students make learning breakthroughs.

Black Men and College Advantages: Fair or Unfair?

There’s no denying that the numbers are dismal when it comes to black young men who attend and graduate from colleges in the U.S. Statistically speaking, black men have the lowest test scores, the worst grades and the highest dropout rates – in K-12 education, and in college too. The school to prison pipeline is a real phenomenon, with state prisons systems determining their future populations with stunning accuracy based on fourth-grade reading assessment scores. The recognition of this educational crisis has led to some strong initiatives targeted at young black men with the intention of guiding them through the college years and to successful, productive lives that follow.

Any college initiatives targeted at a particular group of people are bound to see some push-back from those who are excluded. Despite the obvious need for college incentive programs for the young black men of the nation, there are plenty who complain about the special treatment these young men receive. Even highly-regarded institutions like Stanford University have alumni who have spoken out against affirmative action practices, pointing out that instead of eliminating racial discrimination, these initiatives have actually led to reverse-discrimination on college campuses.

A Gallup Poll found that 67 percent of Americans are against any type of special treatment when it comes to admittance to college based on ethnicity or race, favoring instead a system that admits students based solely on merit. The belief that black, and other minority, college students who are given special considerations for admittance and financial aid are somehow stealing opportunities from other deserving students is certainly widespread and gaining traction.

Black Women Cry Foul

Perhaps the most surprising of those who are vocally against the increasing amount of financial, mentoring and other college transitional services for black men are black women. On the surface, this would appear to be a detrimental activity. Isn’t the fight for equality and opportunities for black men really a fight for all black people? If you ask the black women who are angered by the initiatives available for their counterparts, that answer is “no.” Where is the love for black women with college aspirations – many of whom fall into disadvantaged categories themselves?

Programs like San Jacinto College’s Men of Honor target black male college students with life programs that not only aid in college graduation, but in the development of life skills and networking opportunities. The TRUMPET program implemented at Northeastern Technical College has increased the retention rate for black students from around half to nearly 90 percent. Programs like these that focus on guiding black male college students through the process appear to be working, but is it at the detriment of female black college students?

Why DO black men seem to be hogging all the college initiative programs?

Less Need for Intervention

The truth may lie in the success of black women in college settings without an overwhelming amount of extra help. Black women are enrolling in college at a higher rate than any other group, and black men graduate from college at a rate that is two-thirds lower than their female peers. Black women appear to be a victim of their own successes, it seems, when it comes to being targeted for help to get through college. Of course there are college incentive programs for black women – from on-campus initiatives to United Negro College Fund options – but the overall spotlight seems to favor black men where college encouragement is concerned. And the women resent it.

So what is it about the young women of the black community that seems to inherently better prepare them for the college setting – without as much of an external push to succeed as the black men? What is so different between a sister and brother raised in the same household that leads the female to prioritize college, while the male needs someone else to prioritize it for him?

It can all be traced back to the contemporary setup of black families. You can call it stereotyping or overgeneralizing, but 68 percent of black women who gave birth in 2012 were unmarried and 48.5 percent of black children grow up in single custodial home, with the overwhelming majority of those parents being mothers. The divorce rate for black families is higher than for white or Hispanic families. More black children grow up without the influence of their fathers than any other demographic.
As a result, black women tend to grow up with strong female role models who emulate independence and a self-sufficient lifestyle. These single moms go out and get the job done every day, and as their daughters get older, they realize that there is a better life outside of these constraints – and that college is the path that will get them there. The young men, though seeing the same role models from their mothers, do not have a male version to look up to in many cases.

Which is why college motivation within and without the black community is so vital for these young men. At this point in the nation’s history, they are in the greatest need for the lifestyle change that higher education can provide, and not just for individual growth but for the benefit of the entire nation. Black women, presumably tired of carrying the load for their community, may not be able to see beyond what they perceive as unfair when it comes to their personal circumstances to the long-term goal of a stronger black community. So while the negative feelings of black women college students regarding the advantages afforded their male peers are founded, a look at the long-term benefits of these male-centric initiatives on college campuses may change their perspective.


Fostering Diversity: A Necessary Step for HBCU Survival

Historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, have provided a top-notch education for African Americans since pre-Civil War days. These schools, founded prior to 1964 with the goal of serving black students, once provided windows to educational pursuits when other doors were slammed shut to African Americans. With diversity at all American colleges and universities on the rise, and the emergence of flexible online programs, where do HBCUs fit in the contemporary higher education picture?

A Powerful Educational Presence

According to ThinkHBCU.org, 70 percent of the nation’s African American physicians and dentists earned their degrees at HBCUs. Over 50 percent of public school teachers of African American descent earned their degrees at HBCUs. African Americans with communication technology degrees from HBCUs make up 44 percent of the nation’s total and 43 percent of mathematics degrees awarded to African Americans come from HBCUs. The range of industries addressed in the offerings of HBCUs is vast, contributing to a larger and more integral African American presence in the workforce.

Women gain an especially strong advantage when they earn a degree from an HBCU. The United Negro College Fund has reported that females who graduate from Bennett and Spelman Colleges make up more than half of the African American women who eventually earn science doctorates. To put that in perspective, that number is higher than the amount produced by all seven Ivy League sister schools put together. In a workplace when minorities often still struggle to reach the highest ranks, African American women hold a strong advantage with a degree from a HBCU.

Remaining Relevant

When HBCUs first began popping up in America, they were a necessity to higher educational paths for African American young people. Benefactors like John Rockefeller founded Spelman College in Atlanta (named after his wife, by the way) in order to give black students a shot in a nation still very much in the throes of Jim Crowe-law domination. Most of the 105 HBCUs were founded in former slave areas that still presented steep challenges for African Americans that aspired to higher education but faced discrimination in dominantly white college settings.

The original intent of HBCUs worked. Some of the nation’s brightest and most influential minds came out of HBCUs. Langston Hughes was a Lincoln University graduate. Martin Luther King Jr. earned his degree from Morehouse College. Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, education expert Marva Collins and Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons all earned degrees from HBCUs (from Tennessee State University, Clark Atlanta University and Dillard University, respectively). These powerful pillars of the African American community were able to achieve optimal success in life because of the education they received from HBCUs.
What about now? With white students quickly becoming one small aspect of non-HBCU settings, do ambitious African American students really need a HBCU to achieve success? Perhaps a more poignant question is this: does it help or hinder the African American community when its members attend a HBCU today? I think the answer is grounded in the particular student’s intent. Young African Americans today do not NEED a HBCU to obtain a general education, but they may find particular programs at individual schools meet their career objectives. Some may even find academic inspiration in the original founding purpose of a HBCU and that feeling of carrying on tradition may fuel them to graduate, make an impact in the world and give back to their college or university.

The Future of HBCUs

The original purpose of HBCUs is no longer the only reason but that does not mean that these institutions lack other attractive qualities. In fact, many students with white European, Latino or Asian roots are choosing HBCUs because of the strength of the academic programs and generally lower tuition costs. During the 2011 – 2012 school year, West Virginia State, Kentucky State and Delaware State universities all reported that more than 25 percent of their populations were made up of white Americans. A continued push for diversity on HBCU campuses is the only way these schools can transition from the necessity of the past to the potential of the future. This means implementing more online course options and flexible degree programs so that all students can picture themselves succeeding at a HBCU. Gratitude for the original intent of HBCUs combined with forward educational thinking for students of all heritages will carry HBCUs to the next level of achievement in higher learning circles.

Read all of our posts about HBCUs by clicking here.

Pioneering a ‘transnational’ university

*The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A guest column by David P. Dauwalder, Ph.D.

Welcome to the San Diego-Baja California Binational Mega-Region.  

While that’s a mouthful, the term is now in wide use by U.S. and Mexican leaders and organizations to define the transnational  area consisting of San Diego and Imperial counties and the State of Baja California.  The region has an estimated population of 6.78 million, with 3.44 million in the U.S. and 3.34 million in Mexico, unified by a dense and complex set of transactions and relationships across the international boundary.  It represents the largest concentration of population along the U.S.-Mexican border.

By any measure, it’s a remarkable place.  The San Diego-Tijuana urban region is the largest binational metropolitan area in the U.S. and the largest in the world.  At its center is the globe’s busiest land-border crossing, with more than 100,000 people coming northward every day to shop, work, and study and for tourism and recreation.  Each month, more than one million U.S. citizens cross the border into Tijuana and back.  Despite the security enhancements on the U.S. side of the border, the two halves of the region are intimately connected demographically, culturally, politically, economically, and in so many other ways.

The vitality of the binational region is incontrovertible.  San Diego County is the state’s second-most populous, with a balanced, forward-looking economy based on universities and research, clean tech, the military, tourism, life sciences, aerospace, healthcare, maritime, and information and communications technologies.  Tijuana is now the second-largest city on the West Coast of North America, with steep population growth in recent decades.  It is a major center for manufacturing, especially in electronics, medical devices, aerospace, and automotive, integrated with the global economy.  Much of the manufacturing includes shipping goods at various stages of production

back and forth locally across the border.

Leaders in the U.S. and Mexico, from the head-of-state level down to grassroots communities, have put in motion historic, multi-faceted efforts to enhance international integration with a strong emphasis on education, especially teacher and student mobility.  These efforts are particularly vigorous in the binational region.

As it happens, the Mega-Region offers a set of special opportunities to enrich and transform colleges and universities.  These opportunities are enhanced by exceptional developments in relations between Mexico, on the one hand, and a variety of key individuals and organizations in the U.S., the State of California, and San Diego County.

Preliminary at-border survey data suggest there are currently as many as 1,250 Mexico- originating university students in San Diego County, and that number could swell to 3,600 by 2025.  Additionally, Mexico’s demand for higher education is growing: nearly 55 percent of the population is under 30 years of age.  In addition, Mexico is the third-largest recipient of H1-B visas to the U.S. – visas aimed at well-trained non-immigrants, working for a short period.  In broad strokes, Mexican students are drawn to academic programs with practicums (co-op experiences and internships), short-term and research programs, and language acquisition.

San Diego hosts the largest naval fleet in the world and has the only major submarine and shipbuilding yards on the West Coast.  So, not surprisingly, San Diego County is also home to the largest population of active-duty military and retired military in the U.S.  These individuals and their families enjoy substantial educational benefits.

Leaders in all sectors on both sides of the border have demonstrated a remarkable unity of purpose to foster closer relations and to profit from the advantages of the binational character of the Mega-Region.  Significant disciplined and coordinated bi-national initiatives to build shared infrastructure, to lobby jointly both Washington and Mexico City on regional issues, to promote educational exchange, and to raise awareness of the Mega-Region appear to be gaining support in both countries.  Regional leaders regard San Diego and Baja California as complementary assets.

These regional attitudes and initiatives coincide with an exceptional push at this time toward further integration of the three NAFTA countries, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. This push toward further integration responds to intensifying global competition from other multinational regions, particularly the European Union and eastern Asia and India.  This theme of North American integration was stressed repeatedly during the recent California-Mexico Trade Initiative X, the 10th annual delegation to Mexico City by the San Diego Regional Chamber.

For colleges and universities in Southern California and throughout the Southwest, the prospect of transnational education seems both natural and inevitable.  There simply is no better time for educational institutions to focus on transnational issues and on the aim of producing innovative thinkers and problem-solvers with the expertise to confront the challenges of transnational development from both a regional and a global perspective.  Drilling down, the question is how can universities – acting individually or collectively — amplify these institutional U.S. and Mexican regional relationships, using them to develop alliances and partnerships contributing to program development, student recruitment, facilities expansion, and financial support?

Thanks to today’s climate of interdependence, we’re all about to find out.


David P. Dauwalder, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President and Provost of Woodbury University in Los Angeles and San Diego.