More Must be Done for Minority Education
Black Issues has performed a great service for the American people by sharing the results of its annual survey on African Americans who have earned college degrees. Behind these data are great stories of human sacrifice, faith, perseverance, hard work, luck, love and dedication. The force of history also looms behind these data and provides important perspective and context for the African American experience in higher education and must not be ignored.
Since their arrival on this country’s shores in the 1600s, it has been a long and arduous journey for African Americans, dictated by the horrors of slavery, racism and legal segregation. Through the 1800s, African Americans were basically denied access to any kind of formal education during the slave experience.
After Emancipation, the primary access for African Americans to postsecondary opportunities came via the establishment of the historically Black colleges and universities. One can say without debate it was the Black colleges, despite limited resources, that propelled African Americans on the road to full citizenship as their graduates led the fight against segregation and racism and argued forcibly for equity and parity throughout society.
Today, HBCUs remain the undisputed champions of advancement for African Americans and minorities in general. These institutions have been at the forefront of generating students who have advanced the common good for more than 100 years.
The data contained in this edition of Black Issues indicates the leading institutions that are producing African American graduates in all fields. Subtract the Black colleges and the production of African American degree holders is significantly reduced.
The challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century require our society to invest more in education and do more to ensure that African Americans and other people of color are given full and unfettered access to quality educational opportunities at the postsecondary level. Because the pipeline for this objective begins at the K-12 level, more must be done to increase and expand the numbers of African Americans who graduate from high school prepared to attend college. Additionally, more must be done to make education an important value for all citizens.
The booming economy of today’s vibrant global marketplace is technologically based and requires people who also understand the world in which we live. Success in this economy will be awarded to those who have access to higher education.
That African Americans remain under-represented and underemployed in all career fields illustrates that this societal problem has not been solved. One of the fields facing a critical shortage of African Americans is teacher education. At a time when the public schools are becoming more Black and Brown, the number of African Americans heading into the teaching profession has declined.
The rising cost of postsecondary education and increased admission standards are of crucial concern for African Americans as well as other minorities. The nation must be challenged to change public policy so that no one is left behind.
Every effort must be made to find ways to defray the cost of postsecondary education, especially for those who are without the means to support themselves even though they possess the capability and potential to succeed.
The United States will not have peace and tranquility if its citizens cannot experience and take full advantage of the freedom and opportunities the nation provides. A society that purports to be the world’s leading democracy cannot exist for long without an educated citizenry, regardless of their status or condition in society.
Black colleges, as the data cited in this issue clearly demonstrates, remain an important solution to the problem. Public policy must require that HBCUs be strengthened and enhanced.
If the African American experience since the 1600s is any indication of what needs to be done, one can only say the response to the problem continues at an incredibly slow pace. The consequences of maintaining this pace in the postindustrial age, against the backdrop of demographic change, will have a dramatic impact on whether the fruits of the American Dream can become a reality for all and whether the United States will remain the world’s leading democratic republic.
— Dr. LEonard L. Haynes served as U.S. Assistant Secretary
for Postsecondary Education from 1989 – 1991.
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