Is North Carolina A&T losing its identity?

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a historically black college and university (HBCU), is in a bit of a crisis.

The school, formed in 1891 under the name “Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Colored Race,” A&T was recently restructured by the North Carolina Committee on Education Planning, Policies and Programs.

Reorganizing for the school means that the College of Arts and Sciences will be no more along with the School of  Technology. The other school that will partner with NC A&T is the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

UNC-G and NC A&T came together last year for a joint nursing program, partnered in 2011 to form the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, and in 1997 did so for the Joint Master of Social Work Program.

A history of working together, it makes sense on the surface for the schools to continue its partnerships. But as A&T continues its stride towards efficiency, many have concerns that the school’s rich history will soon be too diluted to notice.

Liberal arts seems to be on its way out and one instructor, Derick Smith, at A&T believes that the school is being marched towards focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) majors, which receives a good amount of funding.

Smith makes a good point about STEM and how the local and federal government has pivoted towards pushing students to a career in the field.

President Obama notoriously chided liberal arts as economically impractical compared to attaining a skill like being a mechanic or painter. He was, for lack of a better term, being pragmatic when it comes to choices in education.

STEM isn’t for everybody, though. Pushing more students to a field that may not fit their interest or skill set is just as dangerous as removing focus from allowing students a vocational education.

It’s also unfortunate that we may be seeing the slow end of NC A&T. As more HBCUs look for ways to increase enrollment and remain culturally viable, each one will also try to straddle the line between keeping its history and moving towards a more diverse future.

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