HBCU News

Midwestern HBCUs do exist and has the right to matter

Photo of Harris-Stowe State University’s campus in St. Louis, Missouri.

Institutions that were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the African-American community, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) became in existence. Currently, there are 100 HBCUs in the United States, including public and private institutions. Majority of these institutions lie in the hard of the south, but there are two mid-west HBCUs that served in the northern state of Missouri.

Founded by the St. Louis Public Schools as a normal school and became the first public teacher education institution and the 12th such institution in the United States. Harris-Stowe State University (HSSU), stands as the only HBCU in the St. Louis region, which has ties in the segregation era before becoming a designated HBCU. HSSU celebrates 161 years of existence and has been firmly committed to providing a high-quality higher education experience that is both affordable and accessible to a diverse population.

Referring back to HCF’s The Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2018, HSSU has been under the leadership of Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack since 2014. Under his tenure, HSSU has increase grants totaling approximately $3.5 million, approved to offer graduate degree programs for the first time in university history, which was enabled by Senate Bill 334, increased academic degree programs by 100%, going from 14 majors to 31 majors and minors in one year and increasing applications by over 100% in the past five years.

Photo of the campus of Lincoln University located in Jefferson City, Missouri. Photo credits Demetrius Johnson, Jr.

Since 2014, HSSU has been ranked nationally for its academic programs in publications such as Diverse Issues in Higher Education and as one of the top HBCUs in U.S. News & World Report’s annual college ranking. Furthermore, through it all, HSSU has faced punches from drastic state-funding cuts and being one of the “underfunding” HBCUs of Missouri along with Lincoln University located in Jefferson City.

Though Lincoln University faces diversity issues preferably being an HBCU in a more “white” populated town, LU continues to push through striving to serve academic excellence. Selecting a new president, Dr. Jerald Jones Woolfolk who begun her tenure as of June 1, she comes to the helm of leading the institution with a student population of 47% White, 41% African-American and 12% International and other. A big concern for the African-American students is that Lincoln University may unspecific its status as an HBCU.

Despite that these institutions were established as HBCUs, they are often overlooked and criticized for failure. None like no other black college or university, these institutions are also encountering with enrollment and retention difficulties. Also named as one of The Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2018, under Dr. Kevin Rome leadership, Lincoln University was reported to only graduated one-quarter of its student, according to a source and federal statistics. Meanwhile, Lincoln also saw a 7 percent drop in enrollment back in 2016, while losing two-degree programs and sports programs. Though, he was responsible for a 50% increase in student enrollment in addition to the creation of institutional programs and initiatives. Dr. Rome left Lincoln University in the summer of 2017 to become the 16th president of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Recently, published in an op-ed that appeared in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, a “guest editor,” launched a savagely racist rant, attacking HSSU President Dr. Dwaun Warmack, Board of Regents, administration and faculty and staff, stating “Poor leadership is rewarded at Harris-Stowe.” Dr. Warmack was criticized for spending his state-funded travel allowance to walk away with nothing more than a photo and a story about a meeting with President Trump. The article also states, Harris-Stowe failed to meet four out of five basic performance-based funding criteria, and that university official continued to stupidly cheerlead and cover up what has effectively become an academic shipwreck. He was also criticized for asking for more money from the state and allied with the local branch of the NAACP to demonstrate on his behalf and ignoring the consequences of performance-based funding.

In the mist of the NAACP standing to challenge the rights and the state’s treatment towards black colleges. The organization announced the formation of a group called the Coalition of Equity and Excellence in Higher Education, which will “conduct activities to achieve educational and charitable objectives within the State of Missouri, focusing primarily on activities that ensure equity for Missouri’s Historic Black Colleges and Universities.”

Dr. Warmack strikes back with a co-op entitled “Harris-Stowe has the right to exist.” In that article, Warmack expressed that HSSU is far from being an endangered institution and from data the reflects during 2014-2018; three years of enrollment growth landed at 19.3 percent, with no additional state-funding, while donor and external funding has doubled during that same period.

Consequently, as a segregation state being that HBCUs are not wanted in the state of Missouri but were and are allowed, will our HBCUs continue to thrive in the forthcoming years? I have faith they’ll, with the aid of a dominant and compassionate administration, Board of Regents or Curators, faculty, and staff, students, alumni and stakeholders, our HBCUs in Missouri must not continue to be overlooked for their operational and academic serving use as state institutions.

Giving up is not an option when it comes to the state of Missouri and its treatment towards black colleges. A continued fight and given support must occur in so that the black colleges not only in Missouri back across the nation receive the proper state-funding that is needed so that students are adequately equipped with the necessary and demand tools for economic growth. Lincoln University also holds the distinction as an 1890 Land-Grant institution, which was reported that the U.S. House of Representatives voted 213-198 to defeat what is known as The Farm Bill. This bill supports agricultural extensions at 1890 Land-Grant institutions such as Lincoln.

In 1866, Lincoln University (formally Lincoln Institute) was formally established under an organization committee. At the close of the Civil War, soldiers and officers of the 62nd and 65th U.S. Colored Infantry took steps to found such an educational institution in Jefferson City, Missouri. On September 17, 1866, the school opened its doors to the first class.

As President and CEO of the HBCU Campaign Fund (HCF), our mission is to support the significance and campaign in raising funds for scholarships and services at HBCU and PB institutions, while also advocating for students, alumni, HBCU and PB institutions. We stand behind the Presidents of the two illustrious Historically Black institutions that deserve the right to exist and continue providing that high-quality education to scholar students who will succeed as dominant leaders. HCF will continue to advocates for HBCUs as long as we are in existence as an organization.

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