To meet President Obama’s goal to have the country lead the world in college graduates by 2020, administration officials say every type of higher education institution—including historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs—needs to ramp up completion efforts.
To help achieve that, the administration is committed to increased federal funding and leveraging support of the private sector, philanthropies, and alumni for HBCUs, John Silvanus Wilson, the director of the White House HBCU Initiative, told a Sept. 19 gathering of leaders from that community in Washington.
Mr. Wilson unveiled a new feature on the U.S. Department of Education website that lets users click on an individual HBCU campus and see the current number of degrees produced, the total degrees needed by 2020 to meet the president’s goal, and how that breaks down by year.
“This is going to be no easy task,” said Mr. Wilson. Recent reports from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show the United States ranks 16th, down from ninth in terms of the most-educated population. The country has not led the international ranking since 1995. South Korea is the current leader.
Mr. Wilson congratulated some campuses for upward trends in graduation, including Spelman College, in Atlanta; Lincoln University, in Lincoln, Pa.; Philander Smith College, in Little Rock, Ark.; and Alabama A&M, in Normal, Ala.
He outlined the administration’s support for federal funding for such institutions, and urged continued investment in the federal aid program for low-income students, which serves nearly two-thirds of students at HBCUs.
The administration also is pushing to help those institutions in the areas of capital expansion, messaging, and campus enrichment, including efforts to address the recruitment and retention of African-American men.
Valerie B. Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama, told those at the conference that with shrinking endowments, rising costs, and falling enrollment, HBCUs have felt the pain of the recession acutely. Everyone has to change the way they do business, and HBCUs have always been leaders in getting better outcomes with fewer resources, she said.
A version of this article appeared in the September 28, 2011 edition of Education Week as High-Profile Focus Provided for HBCUs