Opinion: On the record

From a letter to the AJC by Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell:

According to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), 70 percent of all Black dentists and doctors, 50 percent of Black engineers and public school teachers, and 35 percent of Black lawyers are graduates of HBCUs. Were it not for HBCUs, this country would be hard-pressed to point to Black graduates in the STEM field. HBCUs have provided more African-American graduates in STEM fields than all Ivy League colleges combined.

According to a 2013 National Science Foundation report, 21 of the top 50 undergraduate institutions that produce Black science and engineering Ph.D.s are HBCUs. HBCUs, which make up only three percent of Black students in higher education in the U.S., produce nearly 30 percent of African-American students with bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields, according to another report.

College education is considered an engine of social mobility, yet Ivy League institutions have done no better in producing social mobility for students of color than they did in 1985. HBCUs, on the other hand, like Spelman and Clark Atlanta, have been among the top engines of social mobility in their home states. Finally, a Gallup Poll that surveyed over 60,000 college graduates from a range of all colleges and universities published by The Wall Street Journal determined that HBCU graduates had the highest rate of financial, career and emotional well-being of college graduates.

From Orlando L. Taylor, executive director, Center for the Advancement of STEM Leadership, Fielding Graduate University, Washington, D.C.:

As an aside, AJC cites relatively small enrollments at several HBCU liberal arts colleges, e.g., Paine College. It is certainly the case that enrollment numbers correlate with institutional revenue, and therefore institutional viability. However, it is interesting to note that many Predominately White Institutions (PWIs) are heralded for having low enrollments, small classes, more faculty attention, etc., such as St. Johns College in Annapolis (enrollment 434), Sweet Briar College in Virginia (enrollment 300, down from 561 in 2014), Millsaps College (enrollment 866 grad and undergrad), and Agnes Scott College in Atlanta (enrollment 927). Why is the same prestige afforded to these institutions of higher education not extended to predominantly Black liberal arts colleges of similar enrollment size, faculty-student ratios, etc.?

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