>Have HBCU’s lost their niche?

>With the era of segregation becoming smaller and smaller in our nation’s rear-view mirror, the nation’s historically black colleges and universities (referred to by blacks as HBCUs) are also seeing dwindling numbers.

According to this article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

In 1977, 35 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to black students were from historically black colleges. By 2002, the share was down to 22 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, even though the number of African-American students earning bachelor’s degrees from historically black colleges actually grew…Now, with a wide range of choices, only 13 percent of African-American college students are enrolled in HBCUs.

The article points to a few graduates of HBCUs who contribute the decline a myriad of issues, such as many black students hailing from middle-to-upper-middle class families and the fact that many HBCUs have lower endowments than traditional colleges, which in turns means less scholarship funds available to prospective students.

Not to mention the biggest elephant in the room: the looming economic crisis, which is making it harder for families to pay bills–and the often higher tuition at some HBCUs.

But, these HBCUs continue to play a role in the maturation of black students, according to Leonard L. Haynes, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

At historically black institutions, he said, students of color can “get an education, get nurturing, get to mature and get to be good citizens after they graduate” in an environment that celebrates their cultures. “If they didn’t exist today, they would have to be created,” Haynes said.

I must admit: I did not attend an HBCU. Nope, I attended a traditional, public university which had a pretty diverse make-up of different races and ethnicities. I had relatives pushing me to attend Spelman College in Atlanta. I immediately shot down the idea, noting the school’s tuition, which was twice as high as alma mater. Also, my thinking at the ripe age of 16/17 was I could care less about taking classes with any high-class, bourgie black women and at a school in which if you don’t join a frat or a sorority, you’re a nobody.

As I look back at my reasons for electing to attend the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Ga., it was more for practical reasons: money, money and more money. UWG offered the same thing Spelman and other HBCUs offer for less cost. Not to mention its limited areas of study available to students. I don’t knock anyone for attending an HBCU–in fact, I have nothing but admiration for anyone enrolling in any school to further their education.

While I’m not a staunch proponent of HBCUs, I do see their need. These colleges and universities do provide some niche for a certain segment of people who want (or need) that sisterhood or brotherhood. Even though the era of Jim Crow and educational discrimination is largely over, HBCUs still serve a purpose for those who feel comfortable attending college with a population that understands their struggles and where they are coming from.

What do you think of HBCUs? Do they still serve a purpose or are they losing importance among blacks?