Mississippi commissioner: No status change needed for state's HBCUs
- The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reports that Alfred Rankins Jr., the first African American commissioner of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Education, recently said that he does not support merging the state’s three historically black universities into predominantly white institutions. Rankins went on to say that merging, closing or consolidating an HBCU will only be used as a last resort.
- However, some higher education leaders contend that merging Mississippi’s historically black universities into predominantly white institutions will help them cut costs.
- Since 2001, Alcorn State University, Jackson State University and Mississippi Valley State University are utilizing a $500 million settlement from the historic Ayers litigation settlement to provide funds for construction projects and the creation of academic support programs. According to the journal, Rankin is working with the presidents of three universities to find additional support as Ayers funds, mandated by a Supreme Court desegregation decision in 1992 and implemented a decade later, are expected to be depleted by 2022.
HBCUs nationwide continue to struggle with declining enrollments and budget woes. Concordia College in Selma, Alabama, is the latest historically black college to close its doors after years of financial struggle. At the time the college announced that it will no longer accept students after the spring 2018 semester, the institution had 400 students, 100 staff members and at least $8 million in debt.
HBCUs are looking for new and creative ways to attract students and increase revenue. Recent research shows that historically black institutions are not fully taking advantage of one opportunity — boosting their web presence. One peer-reviewed study measured and evaluated how an HBCU’s web presence, web popularity and paid search campaigns compare with similar institutions. Findings show that HBCU websites tend to be not as robust or as visited as other colleges’ websites, and that they spend less on web advertising than their non-HBCU peers.
Meanwhile, advocates for HBCUs argue that there needs to be better data to prove the success of these institutions in order for them to obtain more funding. A study called “Degree Attainment for Black Students at HBCUs and PWIs: A Propensity Score Matching Approach,” found that black students who attend HBCUs are between 6% and 16% more likely to graduate within six years than those who attend predominantly white institutions.
One study researcher, Ray Franke, assistant professor of higher education at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, said that HBCUs have not been treated fairly when measuring student success. Most statistics don’t take into account systemic differences between students that include socioeconomic status, academic preparation or institutional disparities in revenues and wealth. Not taking these elements into consideration may handicap black colleges and universities.
- The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education State Leaders in Mississippi See No Need to Close or Merge Public HBCUs