HBCU Leaders Focus on Technology Gap
‘Sustained teamwork’ needed to eliminate disparities, one leader saysHistorically Black colleges and universities lag far behind traditionally White institutions in technology, college leaders told a House of Representatives panel in September.
“The technology gap at many of our campuses is a visible reminder of the unresolved legacy of separate but equal systems of education,” said Dr. Michael Lomax, president of Dillard University in New Orleans.
Thanks to a new partnership with the University of Colorado, HBCUs are gaining access to new course materials and classroom experiences. “While this project is exciting, it reminds us of how far ahead technologically majority institutions are when compared to HBCUs,” Lomax told a House Education and the Workforce subcommittee on higher education.
Bridging gaps in technology and meeting other needs of Black colleges will require “sustained teamwork” between HBCUs, Congress and the private sector, he said.
College-to-college partnerships are supporting some of these gains, lawmakers were told. Jackson State University and Tougaloo College, both HBCUs in Mississippi, have benefited from technology partnerships with majority institutions such as Western Michigan University, said Dr. Elson Floyd, the president of Western Michigan. Western Michigan partnerships include distance-learning coursework and summer institutes in which HBCU undergraduates visit the Michigan campus.
The program may spur more HBCU students to consider Western Michigan for graduate work, Floyd said.
Black colleges also are getting some federal funds to promote technology and other in-demand occupations, said Dr. Marie McDemmond, president of Norfolk State University. Norfolk State has received a $10 million Department of Energy grant and a $1.2 million NASA grant to start a Center for Materials Research and a new master’s program in a similar field.
Still, minority-serving institutions need more federal funding for technology programs. McDemmond cited the potential of H.R. 1034, a plan that could provide $250 million for HBCUs, tribal colleges and Hispanic-serving institutions to acquire equipment and train teachers in the use of technology in the classroom. However, due to federal budget constraints, sponsors may have to trim the allocation to $50 million, she said.
“Even $250 million will not fill the total ‘digital gap’ in technology access between the haves and the have-nots,” she said. Much like other HBCUs, Norfolk State has an overwhelming majority of students who get financial aid. Overall, 87 percent of students at the institution receive aid, and these students have an average household income of less than $23,000 annually.
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