Historically black colleges and universities or HBCUs have an important tradition in the United States. It’s not necessarily a straightforward tradition, but it’s one we still grapple with.

One of the biggest struggles, perhaps, is the equalizing of values, of recognition, and importance. The problem addressed in this interview – my interview with George Johnson, Student Accounts Manager at Georgetown University, (former graduate of 2 HBCU’s) – is that of academic weight. Does a 4.0 at an HBCU have the same value as a 4.0 at a PWI?

Q: The first question, then, is one that seeks to generalize. Generally speaking, does a 4.0 at an HBCU have the same value as a 4.0 at a PWI? If not, why not?

A: Generally speaking a 4.0 at an HBCU does have the same value as a 4.0 at a PWI. I say this because a 4.0 simply means you were able to master the subject matter being studied with the highest grade possible for the requirements of the degree or course. If we use the old adage of “2+2 = 4”, then in general terms a 4.0 is a 4.0 is a 4.0. I say that because the true debate is not if it has the same value, but is the criteria required to receive a 4.0 more arduous at a PWI vs. an HBCU. To date, there is no real scientific evidence to prove or disprove this theory. Furthermore, this statement falls apart on the merits, as professors from PWI’s teach at HBCU’s and vice versa. In terms of value, what does getting a 4.0 really mean? There are students who graduated without honors who are millionaires. There are students with 4.0’s that are currently out of work. As I stated in a previous article, we should be commending anyone who is able to get a 4.0 regardless of the institution it was received from, for that truly takes hard work.

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