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Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) both have played critical roles in higher education in the United States, however a persistent disparity exists between these two types of institutions that separates them from fair game and same opportunities for its students. Historically, racial segregation and discrimination has affected the perceived value of degrees obtained from HBCUs and the respect for HBCUs as a whole. Essentially we would need to challenge these biases and raise awareness about the deep history, achievements, and many contributions of HBCUs to the education system. Addressing the disparity, increasing visibility and debunking misconceptions about HBCUs will help attract even more talented students and faculty to these institutions and further bridging the gap between the two institutions.
One of the primary contributors to the disparity between HBCUs and PWIs is the issue of funding
When it comes to HBCUs historically they have always received less financial support (from government and private donations), resulting in limited resources, outdated infrastructure, and inadequate faculty and staff salaries. This disparity and the challenges that come from it, hampers the HBCUs’ ability to compete with PWIs in terms of academic programs, research opportunities, campus facilities and sometimes overall career advancement. To address this, increasing federal and private funding is crucial, along with targeted investments in HBCUs to ensure that they have the necessary resources to provide the quality education we know we can. Additionally, we can start fostering partnerships within the local communities and businesses in order to help create potential internships and job placement opportunities that can be beneficial to the overall student experience at an HBCU. We can also strengthen the student support systems by offering mentorship programs and expanding access to scholarships and grants which in turn can help improve graduation rates at HBCUs. Graduation rates are another challenge that HBCU face when it comes to their respected institution.
Despite HBCUs promoting educational success among African American students and have shown great graduation rates, their rates at these institutions still lag significantly behind PWIs graduation percentage rate. Factors such as socioeconomic challenges, lack of academic support, and inadequate financial aid help contribute to this disparity as well as contribute to the dramatic decline in overall graduation rates. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) indicates that only 45% of Black, bachelor’s degree seeking students who entered college in 2015 graduated within six years — 20 percentage points below the national average. By contrast, 68 percent of white students and 78 percent of Asian students in the same cohort completed their degrees within six years according to The Williams Record.
In addition to the graduation rate, diversity is needed among staff and faculty in order to provide a well-rounded education and to be able to foster inclusivity, however HBCUs often face challenges in attracting and retaining diverse faculty members. PWIs tend to have larger endowments, enabling them to offer more competitive salaries and benefits packages amongst potential faculty, but this in turn makes things difficult on HBCUs’ end to compete for the top talent. To address this disparity, increased funding should be allocated to HBCUs in order to enhance faculty recruitment efforts and provide professional development opportunities that would attract and sustain staff.
The goal in the end is to provide a higher education and it doesn’t have to be a competition. The disparity between both institutions could help be eliminated by fostering more collaborations between HBCUs and PWIs that can create opportunities for joint research projects, knowledge exchange, and shared resources–benefiting both institutions and promoting diversity all around. This could be an excellent way to join forces and give access to students of all walks of life. This can be achieved through comprehensive media campaigns, showcasing successful alumni, and highlighting the unique strengths and opportunities available at HBCUs.
In the end, the disparity between HBCUs and PWIs is a complex issue that requires concerted efforts from policymakers, educational institutions, and the wider community. By addressing funding inequities, strengthening student support systems, promoting faculty diversity, and challenging biases, we can begin to bridge the gap between the two institutions and provide everyone with the same opportunity and resources.