Texas HBCUs address funding inequity at first statewide conference

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Texas students and campus officials hosted the first state conference on Texas Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Austin over the weekend to discuss the need for increased investment in HBCUs.

The event, held at Huston-Tillotson University, featured speeches from campus leaders, a conversation with state legislators who represent HBCUs in their districts, and a panel discussion with students who have talked about the experience and challenges of attending HBCUs.

Archie Vanderpuye, provost of Huston-Tillotson University, said organizers developed the conference to create opportunities for students to learn and shed light on the need for more resources and support for HBCUs in the world. Texas. He said he hopes the conference will lead to more support for HBCUs in the state and across the country.

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“As we focus on Texas, we are certainly aware that our sister institutions in other states share this common goal, and we hope that we will share what we are learning here with them so that we can build a future together. shared.” Vanderpuye said.

Jeffrey Clemmons, a Huston-Tillotson alumnus who graduated in 2021, said there was a “funding inequality from day one” between HBCU money and flagship university systems. State. In addition to addressing inequalities, he said one of the goals of the conference was to develop a coalition of HBCUs that can address common issues in the future.

“Before this time, as far as we can tell, while there were informal channels, there was never a unified HBCU conference,” Clemmons said. “We’ve never been able to come together in a unified way and advocate for issues, and so I certainly hope that the only thing that will come out of this is that we will no longer be strangers to each other and that we will be united. “

Continued:Austin’s First United Methodist Church Eliminates HBCU Huston-Tillotson Student Debt

Joseph Robinson speaks Friday during a student roundtable at the HBCU conference at Huston-Tillotson University.

“The economic model is broken”

Several speakers noted that state and federal governments have a history of providing inequitable funding and investment to HBCUs compared to other universities, and that the lack of funding persists, including in Texas.

The two public four-year HBCUs in Texas — Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M University — received nearly $2,500 less in combined average public funding per student than the state’s two flagship universities in 2019, according to Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board data. This gap double in 2021.

The majority of HBCUs in Texas are private, including Huston-Tillotson University, and do not receive state funding, but they must compete with other universities in the state for other investment and donations.

Continued:President of Huston-Tillotson University to retire in 2022

Colette Pierce Burnette, president and CEO of Huston-Tillotson University, said “the business model is broken” and it’s an “uphill battle” to secure funding for HBCUs. She said she needs to balance school costs with Pell Grant-eligible students, which means looking for other sources of income to try to keep tuition low.

“Our schools are often called resilient, … but at some point, resilience becomes abusive. We shouldn’t have to be resilient to go from surviving to thriving,” Burnette said. “I see My institution has come a very long way, but we need investments in ourselves so that we can increase the number of textbooks we can use to educate.”

State Rep. Jarvis Johnson, D-Houston, encouraged HBCUs to prepare fundraising strategies and lobby state officials for more support on Capitol Hill.

“Unfortunately, a lot of (legislators) don’t know the importance of HBCUs. They only see it from afar,” Johnson said. “When they see it from afar, they just see it like, ‘Oh look at this little campus. Look at the old buildings that are crumbling. Why should we give you money?’ Because the buildings are collapsing, because the campus is small.

Students from historically black colleges in Texas host a discussion Friday at the HBCU conference.

HBCU Advocacy

Students and community members from seven of nine HBCUs in Texas – Jarvis Christian College; Prairie View A&M University; St. Philip’s College; Southwestern Christian College; University of Southern Texas; Wiley College and Huston-Tillotson University — attended the event.

Samarya Howard, a Huston-Tillotson University student, said she faced inconsistent public transportation issues while in college, which led her to miss classes and spend hundreds of dollars. dollars for Uber and Lyft.

At his alma mater, Southwestern Christian College, Howard said the buildings were “falling apart,” but there wasn’t enough money to rebuild them. She said she wants more money invested in HBCUs to repair buildings and fund programs where students can develop their talents.

Continued:Huston-Tillotson seeks to bolster ranks of black men in teaching jobs with Apple partnership

“There are so many different things that we go through as students, but I think if we start to really talk together we can show people, ‘OK, this is what we need’,” said Howard said. “I think we need to get people to speak up more (and) focus on what they’re trying to accomplish, because that’s not just important to them, but also to HBCU and to others. students.”

Clemmons said he wants more funds allocated to student scholarships and financial support, retrofitting HBCU facilities without proper ventilation or air conditioning systems, and civic centers on every campus to engage students more. of color.

“I hope lawmakers who aren’t here will see what we did at this conference and hear the stories from this conference and say, ‘Hey, I gotta go talk to my HBCU that’s in my district'” , Clemmons said. “I really want them to come to the table…and have a transparent conversation about the inequities that have gone unaddressed in our state.”

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