Those who know a thing or two about historically black institutions are more than likely fluent with the trials and tribulations of its financial aid: The struggle. Check out Creative Loafing Atlanta‘s Rodney Carmichael report on Morehouse College President, John Silvanus Wilson Jr., take on HBCU money woes and LGBT issues.
Incoming Morehouse College President John Silvanus Wilson Jr. had a “frank” discussion with NPR’s Michel Martin on “Tell Me More” about the need to re-evaluate the mission and effectiveness of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The segment, “Do We Still Need HBCUs?”, focused largely on the financial challenges facing HBCUs in recent years, particularly as they pertain to turning graduates into donors. According to Dr. Wilson, who is the former executive director of President Obama’s White House Initiative on HBCUs, the problem isn’t that HBCUs lack the wealthy alumni pool that keeps other colleges and universities afloat, it’s that proud graduates of black schools tend to donate to their alma mater at a much lower rate than other alumni because they don’t trust their institutions’ money-management skills.
WILSON JR.: You’re pretty much spot on. I mean the office that has come up more than any other office is the financial aid office. Most graduates say, oh boy, they angered my parents. They lost my money, or in some cases I couldn’t get my transcript back and that kind of thing. So it’s a lack of operational excellence, so I’m going to go down to Morehouse and I’m going to – and I’ve already announced, we are going to be known for our operational excellence.
That lack of “operational excellence” has led to the downfall of several HBCUs, including Atlanta’s Morris Brown College, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year, after a decade of decline resulting from lost accreditation and the conviction of former Morris Brown President Delores Cross (1998-2002) for embezzling government funds intended to cover student tuition.
While Morehouse hasn’t faced anything nearly as daunting, the college was forced to cut spending and furlough staff members last fall based on a decline in enrollment, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That announcement came on the heels of the Obama administration authorizing a $228 million grant to benefit struggling HBCUs.
Wilson, a Morehouse alum who begins his presidential tenure this month, has focused much of his academic career on collegiate finance research and fundraising at schools ranging from George Washington University to MIT. As Michel Martin suggests, Wilson is “part of a new trend of emphasis on administrative capability” among HBCU presidential hirings.
Another issue discussed during Wilson’s NPR interview was the Morehouse ban on cross-dressing a couple of years ago that resulted in a 2010 Vibe magazine story titled “Mean Girls of Morehouse.”
Read the entire piece at Creative Loafing.