Howard is having some challenges.
That is what the Department of Education Secretary Arnie Duncan and the new Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Dr. George Cooper, said in an hour-long session focused on addressing issues facing Howard University and the other 105 HBCUs in the nation.
Because of a loss of revenue at its hospital, cuts in federal funding, a dip in enrollment and other challenges, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Howard’s credit rating on Tuesday to Baa1–one category above “junk“.
Supporters of black colleges fear that if ‘The Mecca’, arguably the nation’s most well-known HBCU, finds itself in such financial trouble, other HBCUs certainly will, too.
“Funding is a real challenge for public and private institutions,” said Cooper. “We can’t manage their budgets, but I think the supplemental funds that are provided by federal agencies will help them.”
“Supplement funding” from federal agencies, according to White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks April D. Ryan, is what Cooper believes will help strengthen the HBCU’s that have taken a hit from the falling enrollment because of various reasons, including denials of those receiving the Parent Plus Loans—which affected some 14,000 students from HBCUs who were forced to abandon their studies in the fall of 2012.
Cooper, who once served as president of South Carolina State University, also said that many HBCUs face some challenges because of the lack of experience from new administration.
“It’s on the job training,” Cooper said. “One of the things I think I can do is share some real experiences in terms of how you deal with downturns in enrollment, state appropriations and foundation and corporate partners.”
Optimism for the state of HBCUs remains high even with these drawbacks. We want HBCU’s to thrive, said Secretary Duncan.
In a presidential proclamation observing 2011 HBCU Week, President Barack Obama said:
“HBCUs continue a proud tradition as vibrant centers of intellectual inquiry and engines of scientific discovery and innovation. New waves of students, faculty, and alumni are building on their rich legacies and helping America achieve our goal of once again leading the world in having the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.”