Students from North Carolina’s historically Black colleges and universities came to the General Assembly Wednesday for a day of advocacy.
They were joined by members of the Legislative Black Caucus in pushing for better funding for
HBCUs, funding for election-related changes that will impact college students (and HBCU students, disproportionately) and to stress the continued value of HBCUs.
“We have more HBCUs in this state than any other state in the union,” said Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth), chair of the caucus, at a Wednesday press conference.
North Carolina has five HBCUs that are part of the UNC system – N.C. A&T University, Winston-Salem State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina Central University and Elizabeth City State University. The state is also home to five HBCUs that are independent colleges and universities.
Lowe himself attended Virginia Union University and Bishop College in Texas, both HBCUs.
Surrayyah Chestnut, a sophomore at North Carolina Central University, highlighted HBCUs’ continued struggle for appropriate levels of funding,
“Throughout their history HBCUs have received significantly less funding than their white counterparts,” Chestnut said. “Decades of chronic underfunding have made our institutions more subject to the dangers of accreditation issues and unpredictable housing crises.”
Those stresses lead to students having to worry about their school’s resources and survival in addition to all the usual stresses of college life, Chestnut said.
A high profile recent example is Bennett College in Greensboro, which this month raised more than $8 million in an emergency funding drive as it struggles to maintain its accreditation and chart a path for a sustainable future.
The HBCU Student Action Alliance pointed to a series of numbers to stress the continued importance of HBCUs:
*80 percent of Black judges attended an HBCU.
* 40 percent of Black members of Congress attended an HBC – including North Carolina’s own Sen. Gladys Robinson, a Bennett College alumna.
* HBCUs are responsible for 20 percent of all current bachelor degrees grants to black students in the U.S.
*Across the nation, 134,090 jobs are created by HBCUs in their surrounding communities.
“HBCUs aren’t just the ‘historic’ part of HBCU,” said Princess Bush, a sophomore at Bennett College. “We are also the present – and ever relevant.”