Cheney University and Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) Today

701 Arch Street,Philadelphia

A Discussion about the Present State of HBCUs and their Future


At African American Museum

701 Arch Street,Philadelphia


Moonstone Arts Center

Exerpts from Is There A War on HBCUs? by Dr. Julianne Malveaux - August 2013 issue of ESSENCE magazine

Why HBCUs Lost 14,000 Students in a Year   

You are a proud graduate of an HBCU. You donate money. You're robustly involved in alumni activities. So why does your alma mater seem to be in a crisis? It's simple and it's complicated. First, HBCUs were especially challenged by recent changes in how Parent PLUS loans are dispensed. Parent PLUS loans are awarded based on a parent's credit score. With little notice, in October 2011, the Department of Education tightened the application of credit rules, making it more difficult for parents with less-than-perfect credit reports to be approved for the loan. "Parents will pay to keep their child in school," says Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Congressional Black Caucus chair. "If they are paying their loan back in a timely way, missing a credit card payment or two should not cause them to be denied a continuing PLUS loan." The 2011 change was a shock to many schools and to parents who had made timely payments on loans in the past. With so many families denied PLUS loans for the new school year, HBCUs lost a devastating 14,000 students all at once. …One has to ask: How is it that Lisa Hollins was turned down for a Parent PLUS loan yet made too much money for her daughter to qualify for a Pell Grant? For academic year 2013–14, students from low-income families can qualify for as much as $5,645 in Pell Grants, but only those students whose families have incomes below $23,000 (reduced from $30,000) will receive the full grant and summer Pell Grants, which often helped students who needed to "catch up" from past deficiencies, were eliminated in 2011, while the limit on the number of semesters for which students could receive Pell Grants was lowered from 18 to 12.

"There Is A Fear Of Black Intelligence"

Walter Kimbrough, the seventh president of Dillard University believes HBCUs are under siege. "There is a fear of a Black planet, or a fear of Black intelligence," says Kimbrough. "Our colleges are repositories of Black knowledge, which some would like to ignore. We are plagued by low endowments but also by our nation's indifference to our service. We prepare students for graduate and professional school. We take first-generation students and make them career-ready. High Black unemployment rates and lower Black wealth make it difficult for parents to help finance their child's education, and we do our best to provide what the parents can't. Yet because of the financial circumstances some of our students come from, some students get jobs while they are matriculating, and these jobs undermine their academic success. They feel an obligation to help at home, which may increase their loan indebtedness."

"I Think It's Racist To Ask About The Relevance Of HBCUs"

Every year this effort raises questions about the relevance of HBCUs. "Southern legislators, from both sides of the aisle, understand HBCUs," says Lezli Baskerville, president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. "But others who play a role in these funding decisions continue to ask us to justify our existence." Marybeth Gasman, a White University of Pennsylvania professor who has studied and written about HBCUs, says, "I think it is racist to ask about the relevance of HBCUs," but adds that HBCUs have to do a better job of telling their story. "HBCUs graduate half of the African-American K-12 teachers and 40 percent of the African-American STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] graduates," says Baskerville. Sixty percent of the African-Americans who get Ph.D.'s in STEM areas attended an HBCU undergraduate school." … It is my experience that many inner-city students with average high school grades thrive and achieve at HBCUs, in part because of the quality of teaching but also because the environment is uniquely supportive of them. It's why I believe HBCUs are needed now more than ever in our history. "Bennett College has prepared me for every challenge I could possibly face," sums up Hershelle Gaffney. "It is where I became the woman that I wanted to be."

Our Panel Consists of: 

Michael CoardMichael Coard, Cheyney Alumni - a criminal defense attorney with more than 15 years of trial experience, specializes in murder cases and formerly worked at the Charles W. Bowser Law Center after having served as Legal Counsel for State Senator Hardy Williams.  He received his degree in law from Ohio State University and his undergraduate degrees in English Education and Political Science from Cheyney University. While in law school serving as president of the Black Law Students Association, he led the activism that compelled Ohio State University (which is the largest university in the country) to divest all of its funds from companies doing business with the apartheid government of South Africa.  He is an adjunct professor in the African Studies Department and the Urban Studies Department at Temple University as well as a volunteer instructor of Criminal Justice and also Hip Hop in the university’s Pan African Studies Program. He is a founding member of Avenging The Ancestors Coalition (ATAC) and he hosts the popular Afrocentric “Radio Courtroom” show on WURD-900AM.

Marybeth GasmanMarybeth Gasman is a Professor of Higher Education in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She holds secondary appointments in History, Africana Studies, and the School of Social Policy and Practice. She also directs the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions. Dr. Gasman's areas of expertise include the history of American higher education, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), minority serving institutions, African American leadership, and fundraising and philanthropy. Her research also explores the role education has in the development, growth, and journey of students seeking a college degree. She has written or edited 21 books, including Educating a Diverse Nation: Lessons from Minority Serving Institutions (with Clifton Conrad), Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund, and Understanding Minority Serving Institutions (with Benjamin Baez and Caroline Turner). Eight of Dr. Gasman’s books have won research awards.

Valerie I. Harrison has been appointed Acting President of Lincoln University, the nation’s first degree-granting historically black university, located in  Chester County, Pennsylvania. Harrison, who has more than 15 years of experience in higher education, has served as General Counsel of Lincoln University since 2013. She previously held positions as Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel at Arcadia University and as Associate University Counsel and adjunct professor at Temple University. She serves on a the Advisory Board of the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia which honored her with its Woman of Distinction in 2010 and is the recipient of the 2013 Legal Achievement Award by Villanova’s Black Law Students Association.

Earl Richardson is a nationally renowned expert on discrimination in higher education who served as President of Morgan State University for more than a quarter century. and is a nationally renowned expert on discrimination in higher education who served as President of Morgan State University for more than a quarter century. He has been a Fellow of the Ford Foundation and the Kellogg Foundation, has conducted extensive research on critical problems in higher education relevant to racial autonomy, desegregation and integration and has written on the implications of proposals to merge historically Black institutions with white institutions and on interinstitutional cooperation in higher education. Dr. Richardson is currently a senior researcher in the Robert M. Bell Center for Civil Rights in Education crusading for the comparability and competitiveness of HBCUs with traditionally white institutions.


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