The Republican-led House of Representatives and its near majority in the Senate want to shrink government. This season a GOP leader (Virginia’s very own Rep. Eric Cantor) recommended withholding domestic disaster aid because the emergency spending expanded government.
Now there’s news that GOP leaders want to cut Title III Higher Education funding, 40 percent of historically black colleges and universities’ (HBCUs) share of a $651 million pot, according to New America Foundation data. Such news normally might fly under the radar, but Hampton University President William R. Harvey was not about to let that proposed cut occur quietly. As chairman of the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs, Harvey was determined to fight to keep the funding. He also makes a case for why the funding works in America’s interest.
He laid out the Title III funding challenge to a standing-room crowd of 500 on the Saturday of the 51st annual Parent’s Weekend. Title III funding goes to institutions serving low-income and minority students, Title III, Harvey explained, are sound investments; they pay for infrastructure, technology that supports classroom education, and research and contract service that feed American economic engines.
Harvey said the threatened cuts come at time when HBCUs are under assault.
Since I’ve been teaching here I’ve been disappointed by mean-spirited, poorly researched and lazy shots fired at black colleges by so-called establishment experts. Take exhibit A, a Wall Street Journal op-ed essay last fall (Jason L. Riley’s “Black colleges need a new mission,” Sept. 28)
smeared 105 HBCUs with a broad brush.
Two years earlier, in the winter of 2008, Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, again in the Wall Street Journal, recommended an end to funding at HBCUs that were less than 1 percent white.
The think-tank couple was shabbily informed: White enrollment has been increasing at many HBCUs, and in Hampton’s case, notably in its post-graduate programs.
HBCUs are not monolithic. Like mainstream campuses there are degrees of educational competence: About one third are excellent, the middle third are fair to good, and the last third need improvement.
Last year for-profit universities were championed by the business community, but many of these schools were exposed as financially wasteful mills that prey on nontraditional students and produce dubious educational results. The author of that 2010 Wall Street Journal attack on HBCUs wrote that the for-profits were a good alternative to HBCUs. Isn’t that special?
In making the case that cutting Title III funding would be penny-wise and pound-foolish, Harvey inventoried activity at HU that serves the region, nation and world and has earned government support:
• The Proton Therapy Institute, largest cancer treatment center in the world and eighth built in the U.S. and the only center in the mid-Atlantic region.
• The new Skin of Color Research Institute that is committed to producing sound research that provides answers that solves problems afflicting people from emerging nations in Africa and Asian, and yes American people of African and Asian descent. Harvey said the groundbreaking work has drawn interest from a top executive with Proctor & Gamble, because the company wants to expand its brands into those emerging markets.
• Harvey told parents that a top-level director from the National Institute of Health was amazed by the sound infrastructure on our campus. Funny, after six years here, I’m not surprised.
HU and other high-performing HBCUs are conducting research and service that saves and improves lives globally and domestically, in addition to the assumed responsibility of educating students in classrooms.
If Congress blindly cuts Title III support, the act could cripple billions of dollars of economic output plus innovations in research and technology.
Do cuts like that make any sense?
Dawkins is an assistant professor at Hampton University and winner of a 2011 Edward L. Hamm Teaching Excellence award.