On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Howard University President Sidney Ribeau abruptly announced his retirement last week amid continued reports of fiscal and enrollment challenges at D.C.’s private, historically black university. Kojo examines the transition at Howard and the challenges facing historically black colleges and universities nationwide.
- Greg Carr Chair, Dept. of Afro-American Studies, Howard University
- Lezlie Baskerville President, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to the Kojo Nnamdi Show, connecting your neighborhood with the world. He signed a contract extending his term into 2015, and gave a rousing convocation welcome at the start of the school year, but last week, Howard University President Sidney Ribeau abruptly announced his retirement. The surprising departure coming amidst reports that the historically black University is facing economic and enrollment challenges.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIOne member of the Board of Trustees said in a letter to her colleagues that the school wouldn't be around in three years without crucial decisions now. In response, the board chairman insisted that Howard remains, quoting here, academically, financially and operationally strong. Officials say the recession and changes in student loan programs are hitting not only Howard, but all historically black colleges and universities, HBCUs.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWith 10,000 students, well regarded professional schools and a hospital, Howard is not only a flagship university, but an influential and prominent presence here in the Washington community. Joining us to talk about what we can make of what's going on at Howard and with HBCUs, generally, is Lezlie Baskerville, President of NAFEO, the National Association For Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. That's a membership group representing Presidents of HBCUs. She is a graduate of Howard University Law School. Lezlie, good to see you again.
DR. LEZLIE BASKERVILLEOh, I'm delighted to be here. Thank you so much.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Greg Carr. He is Chair of Howard University's Afro American Studies Department, and a member of the faculty Senate. Greg Carr, good to see you.
MR. GREG CARRIt's a pleasure, Kojo. Thanks for having me.
NNAMDIAnd you, too, can join this conversation at 800-433-8850. Are you a Howard University alum? What was your experience there? What questions do you have about what's going on now? 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Send us a tweet at kojoshow or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org and join the conversation there. Greg Carr, I'll start with you. What was the reaction on campus to the news that President Sidney Ribeau is stepping down?
CARRIn a word, surprise. You talked about his rousing remarks at opening convocation. So, there was surprise. I think there's still that wave of surprise rippling. A lot of questions. But the president will be around. I mean, he's around until December. And he's always indicated that he will rejoin the faculty in a teaching position. So, you know, a lot of what we're going to do, going forward, is really tied to his Presidency over the last five years.
CARRSo, I'm hoping, and what I'm expect is that we'll get a lot more discussion about his thinking and really get a chance to hear from him, what he was thinking and what he is thinking.
NNAMDIAs a former long term Howard employee of more than 30 years myself, full disclosure here, one has to get immediately to the scuttlebutt. The scuttlebutt seems to be that there's a sense that there's more to this than meets the eye. Is that what you're hearing on campus?
CARRAbsolutely. Absolutely. There's always more to this. I think board governance at any University is filled with intrigue, and when you're talking about private institutions, I think there may even be another layer. That having been said, I do think that the general attitude that has been conveyed in places beyond Howard's campus that there's some type of structural problems, that Howard's in crisis, is really, really belied by the facts. And a lot of those facts tie back to what Dr. Ribeau has been able to do over the last five years.
CARRBut, oh yeah, there's always palace intrigue, brother.
NNAMDILast month, Moody's downgraded the school's credit rating, saying Howard's hospital is a drag on its financial condition. Enrollment declined in 2012. The federal government reduced direct appropriations to the school. How have the recession and federal cutbacks effected Howard's finances?
CARRWell, you know, Moody's has had a, kind of, unfavorable outlook toward higher education generally. So, Howard is no different there. Howard, under Ribeau, has been able to restore its endowment to about half a billion dollars, a little over half a billion. Which is the pre-recession level it was at when Dr. Swygert, President Swygert, rather, left office. The recession has hit us hard, particularly the plus loan situation. Our students, difficult for them to finance their education.
CARRBut generally speaking, particularly when you read the Moody's letter from this summer, the idea is that we're still very much liquid. Howard, in fact, went out to the bond market and got 300 million dollars, used two thirds of that money to refinance, on better terms, earlier debt. Howard's in a strong position. The Moody's attitude, I think, toward Howard, certainly isn't out of line with its attitude toward higher education in general.
NNAMDILezlie Baskerville, put Howard's financial position and leadership transition in some context for us. How have the recession and changes to the plus college loan program effected both Howard and other historically black colleges and universities around the country.
BASKERVILLEI'd love to do that. Let me first just respond to the Moody's question.
BASKERVILLEInterestingly, as I was on my way over, I grabbed an article that was in the New York Times in January of 2013. And it's important that your listeners understand that Moody's, generally, did a downgrading and gave a negative grade to all colleges and universities in January. And this report said that for the last two years, Moody's investors gave the nation's most elite public and private colleges and universities a negative rating. But they downgraded the entire community of colleges, given the current economic situation and so forth.
BASKERVILLEMoody's subsequently upgraded a couple of the most elite, but as a community, Moody's determined that the colleges and universities are in trying financial times and that they have, with revenue sources constricting and so forth, there would be a downgrading across the board. And so, when they say that Howard was downgraded, it was, but as my colleague points out here, Howard is doing all of the things that it could do and should do, given these times.
BASKERVILLENow, to answer your question about the financial times, as you know, we are rebounding from The Great Recession, and during the great recession, African Americans lost...
NNAMDIIt had a disproportionate effect on African American families.
BASKERVILLE53 percent of our wealth was lost by African Americans, and so African Americans now have 5200 dollar wealth as compared with Latinos, 6300, white Americans, 113,000 dollars in wealth. That's important to point out because wealth is what most families have left after they've paid their monthly bills and so forth, to invest in college. And so, you've got the African American community that is struggling, having lost 53 percent of its wealth.
BASKERVILLEImportantly, African American women, who are the majority of African American households, have wealth of a thousand dollars, so our wealth was significantly diminished by The Great Recession. And the rebounding from the recession has eluded us. So, what happened was, at a time when we had the diminished wealth, we then had a number of actions taken by Congress that pulled the rug out from so many of our families.
BASKERVILLEThe first was the shifting in the Pell Grant Program. Earlier, we made an adjustment in the Pell Grant so that students who needed to work year round and wanted to go to school in the summer could do so with a Pell Grant, summer Pell Grant. Congress made a decision to take away the Pell Grant. They also lowered the threshold below which you can get a maximum Pell Grant.
BASKERVILLEAnd so, previously, if you had 32,000 in income, you could get a maximum Pell Grant. Now it's 27. So, dollars that were available are no longer available. And, as campuses were adjusting to try and stand in the gap from that loss of money, the Department of Education made an ill advised decision to shift the Parent Plus Loan regulations. Parent Plus Loan is the only federal loan program for parents. Many parents at HBCUs, but all across America, used it as the gap funding for their students.
BASKERVILLEThe impact of the shift in the regulations for the Parent Plus Loan was that HBCUs were disproportionately hit. We've lost 24,000 students and 180 million dollars from HBCUs. Howard University was not exempt from that. Howard University lost roughly 400 students, and I'm not sure...
NNAMDIHas anything been done to change that, because I remember when this first became in the news, there were people in the administration who said, so, if black families were disproportionately adversely effected by the recession, what you are asking us to do is to have them take on debt that they couldn't possibly handle.
BASKERVILLEWell, the department suggests that they were trying to make sure that families, regardless of race and ethnicity, did not take on more debt than they can handle. But, first of all, that's paternalism. The government should not be in the business of trying to decide what families can take on. Importantly, a gauge of what parents can take on, and a fair gauge, is the default rate, and we asked the Department of Education, was this shift done because there was a disproportionately high default rate on the Parent Plus Loans? And the answer is no.
BASKERVILLEIn fact, Parent Plus Loan has among the lowest default rate of the Federal Loan...
NNAMDISo, has anything been done to change the Education Department's policy shift?
BASKERVILLEWe've been meeting with them for about 16, 17 months now, and there's nothing that's been done at this point. They do anticipate negotiated rule making, which is the process for engaging the public in telling their stories. But the Administrative Procedure Act seems to suggest that before they made the shift in the federal policy, they were required to have public notice and an opportunity to engage the public.
BASKERVILLEDid not happen.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Lezlie Baskerville. She's President of the National Association For Equal Opportunity and Higher Education, a membership group representing Presidents of HBCU. She's a graduate of Howard University Law School. Also in studio with us is Greg Carr. He is chair of Howard University's Afro American Studies Department and a member of the faculty Senate. We are discussing Howard University and the challenges facing black colleges and inviting your calls at 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIDid you attend a historically black college or university? Why did you choose it and what was your experience? On to the phones. Here is Lisa in Manassas, Virginia. Lisa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LISAThank you. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. I have a unique experience in that I am a quasi parent, we'll say that, of a child who recently transferred to Howard last year. She came from Sacramento State. I'm her aunt. We suggested that she come to California, I mean come from California, because she really wanted to go to Howard. And I was gonna pay for it, so I said fine. So, I get her here, and I'm excited about her going to Howard, because that's what the girl wants.
LISABut it was very frustrating, on my end, just looking at the infrastructure that is in place. I'm spending 40,000 dollars to send her there. First issue is I can't believe that Howard doesn't have some kind of reciprocal agreement with Virginia, Maryland to have people come to the school. Secondly, the dorms were atrocious. I went to UC Santa Barbara 30 years ago and my dorms were better than Howard's dorms. Being in the nation's capital, the internet, the broadband was horrible.
LISAIt was not safe for my niece to be there. It was frustrating to me when I went to pay her fees, which were exorbitant, I cannot believe how much that school costs, to pay my 11,000 dollar check for the semester that I couldn't see where my money was going, and I started getting angry. I was angry at Financial Aid because they are still working with paper to get information from one department to the next department. I was disappointed that her classes from Sacramento State, which seemed to be the exact same classes, that Howard University wasn't accepting.
LISAI was disappointed that Howard had a requirement that she paid...
NNAMDILisa, what did you do about all of these disappointments?
LISAWell, after I, let's see, I put a parent group on Facebook. There was a convocation in spring where everyone was coming to tout how great Howard was, and I was paying my 11,000 dollar check. I made my own sign and marched with those students and said, where is my money going? You can't expect to be a world-class institution that gets all this federal money and you're still working on paper.
LISABut you're not being accepting. It just made no sense to me. (unintelligible)…
NNAMDILisa, there is a great deal of history there and I'm glad we have Greg Carr in studio with us as chairman of the Afro-American studies department. I can tell you a number of things. I have three sons who graduated from Howard University.
NNAMDIAnd they got excellent educations there. But you should know that traditionally HBCUs have been asked to do more with less than have, in fact, fulfilled that responsibility. The less often has to do with the administrative procedures that take place at these universities, that a lot of students and their parents often find it difficult to navigate. It's one of the problems that HBCUs have when it comes to raising money from alumni because even though the alumni are often proud of the education and the degrees they got at these universities, in the short term anyway, they often have some fairly unpleasant memories of the administrative experience. Greg Carr?
CARRAbsolutely. You know, first thing I'd say, Lisa, is thank you. And is your daughter still enrolled at Howard?
NNAMDII don't know if Lisa -- Lisa's not on the line.
CARROkay. Well, if you're listening, Lisa, send her to me, please. Founders Library Room 319. And I'm sure if she's still here that means she's already discovered why Howard is what Howard is. Our tuition, actually, is lower than our peer and (word?) institutions by far. Doesn't make it still inexpensive. In fact, a couple of things. Our rate of alumni giving is going up. It's about 17 percent, which is higher than the norm for HBCUs generally, but still not as high as we'd like it. That began under President Swygert and continued under Dr. Ribeau.
CARRBut more specifically, we've got two brand new dormitories going up and a new academic building, interdisciplinary research. That's a result of that $300 million bond offering that I mentioned earlier. These two new dorms, they've already come out of the ground. We had a topping ceremony for one a couple of weeks ago. Your daughter was one of the thousands who have applied to Howard. In fact, we had 26,000 apply for slots at Howard. Our freshman class this year is around 1,600, the largest in about 15 years. The average SAT score, about 1,100, which his more than 250 points higher than the national average for students of color.
CARRBut all that means nothing if you can't get what you say you're paying for. And so we see broadband has really been expanded. Dr. Ribeau began something that expect will continue under his academic renewal, which is the transition to a lot of paperless service. You know, we see that happening now with financial aid and admissions. We've gone to the journal applications in our admissions format so it's a lot easier. And, you know, a couple other things, I think it's very important for us to remember that Howard and HBCUs generally, but certainly Howard, more so than many other institutions and among the black colleges, and none of the historically white schools, who basically used integration to cherry pick for the top academic students and the kids who could run the 4-4-40 in football, but Howard tries to do something and does something that white schools don't even try to do.
CARRYou put a kid with the top SAT scores next to a young person from Jamaica or Trinidad or Ghana with excellent academic preparation, next to a top kid from Baltimore or like me from Nashville, who has all the potential in the world, but may have come through a public education system that didn't serve them well. You put them all in the same classroom and not only do you have them graduate -- and our graduation rate is actually over 60 percent, which is higher than a lot of universities. But you have them go on to achieve remarkably.
CARRLisa, I suspect that your daughter at Howard will tell you in a minute, with all the challenges she may have had in the short term, she has actually made the best decision of her life. And if you tried to have her leave Howard, I suspect you may have a bigger fight on your hand than you would have had when she started to started to apply (unintelligible).
NNAMDIGotta take a short break. Hold your thought, Lezlie Baskerville. We'll be right back. If you'd like to join the conversation -- are you concerned about Howard University's future? What's the biggest challenge you see facing Howard University and other HBCUs today. Give us a call at 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on the challenges facing Howard University with the recent announcement that its president, Sidney Ribeau is stepping down. We're also looking at the challenges facing black colleges around the country with Greg Carr. He is chair of Howard Universities Afro-American studies department, and a member of the faculty senate. Lezlie Baskerville is president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. She's also a graduate of Howard University law school. We're inviting your calls at 8900-433-8850. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow.
NNAMDIHoward got more than $200 million in direct annual appropriations from the federal government. More than most other universities get. But the federal budget sequester is expected to take a bite out of this year's appropriation. How has the reliance on federal money affected Howard's financial outlook, as far as you know, Lezlie Baskerville?
BASKERVILLEHoward's reliance on federal money is -- it affects it in an affirmative way to be sure. The federal government has acknowledged the value of Howard University, unlike any other university in the nation. There are two entities. The Gallaudet University and Howard University, that this country determined were such an integral and important part of educating the richly diverse constituencies of this nation that they have invested in Howard and Gallaudet. The challenge here, though, is -- and to get back to Lisa's questions or concerns from Manassas. I certainly regret that her daughter has had the experience that she had.
BASKERVILLEBut let's continue to put that in context. So Howard, as was pointed out, the tuition there is high and college tuition is high, but the reality is that its tuition is $12,000 to $15,000 less than a comparable historically white colleges and universities. And so the College Board reports that across the board HCPUs, private HPCUs are on average $10,000 less than their historically white counterparts, and for publics, about $2,500 less. So tuitions are high to be sure. What do you get for that at Howard? You get a world-class education in a global environment that looks like the United Nations.
BASKERVILLEYou get a world-class education and an environment where students come, as was pointed out, from all walks of life. Students who could excel in the most competitive institutions in the nation and those who may need some shoring up so that they can ultimately soar and thrive, but the faculty, the staff, the environment there, they invest in students and take them where they are and take them to the top of their classes. You get an institution that is top-ranked among those who are preparing African Americans, in particular, but other diverse students in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics at a time when President Obama said we have to have 100,000 new STEM teachers.
BASKERVILLEHoward University is graduating disproportionate percentages of students in sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics. Howard University's education department, under Dr. Leslie Fenwick is not only preparing the students who are enrolled in Howard University to be world-class teachers, to be world-class educators, but also they have a pipeline with a program bringing junior high and high school students, preparing them to excel in the teaching environment. So Howard is a world-class institution. What are they investing in? They are investing in the faculty, the staff, the counselors, the extra learning opportunities that will make the students excel.
BASKERVILLEAnd was pointed out, you make those choices. Recently Howard broke ground on -- I believe it was two dormitories.
BASKERVILLEAnd the first academic building in about 15 years.
BASKERVILLEBut it's moving in the right direction…
NNAMDIAnd President Ribeau…
BASKERVILLE…if the federal government made the same degree of investment in Howard that it made, for example, in Johns Hopkins -- when they decided Johns Hopkins was going to be the world-class, the standard bearer in health professions it made a concerted, determined investment. They did the same for the University of Virginia. If they invested the same percentage of dollars the same volume of dollars in what they have determined to be one of the nation's world-class institutions we would certainly have those things that Ms. Lisa is indicating were not there.
NNAMDIWell, let's continue this argument for awhile, because we got an email from John who says, "Why should Howard get a federal appropriation of nearly one-quarter of billion dollars every year, along with additional special grants and contracts with the city and federal governments? Other private colleges don't get that. Wouldn't it be better to use that money for grants to low-income students so they can go wherever they want?"
CARRWell, I think John should probably do a little bit more research, as Dr. Baskerville says. There are millions of dollars of federal money invested in many private institutions. As Dr. Baskerville said, Johns Hopkins and University of Virginia are just two among many. You know, it's interesting, Howard's appropriation, a little over $200 million, has been flat for years. In other words, it hasn't increased, it hasn't increased with inflation. There are those on Capitol Hill who understand the value of Howard. Or course Sen. Rand Paul, who was there in April to talk to Howard students understands the value of Howard.
CARRIt's very interesting now because sequester will result in a little over $20 million, maybe closer to $22 million being cut out of Howard's budget. But let's be clear, Howard's budget is over $950 million a year. So we're talking about close to a $1 billion budget, you know. But in terms of grants, I could agree with John on this, we need more money to fund the higher education, period. And a lot of that money, post-1965, was converted from grants to loans. And it's very important -- Dr. Baskerville has begun to lay that out in terms of what is happening, in terms of drying up funding for higher education generally.
CARRBlack colleges, of course, being victimized very seriously by that. And then finally I'd say to John, you know, it's interesting that we make choices over pennies. Instead of looking at how much money goes to what universities in higher ed., we look at the pennies being given to places like Howard and other HBCUs. And instead of questioning the investment strategy generally, we look at those pennies and say, how could you divide that penny up even smaller and dole it out to people how are already struggling (unintelligible) ?
NNAMDIDescribe the students who are drawn to black colleges and universities today? What makes them choose that environment, Greg?
CARRWell, you know, it's interesting. These students are usually self-starters. They have a sense of ambition. They have a sense of purpose that distinguishes them from their high school classmates often. They are students who are looking for community. Black colleges provide community, the kind of personal touch. They are students, quite frequently, who look and have a sense of service. They're looking to use their intellectual work and their scholarship to contribute not only to their communities, but to improve society generally. And finally, I'd say these are students who have a sense of wonder.
CARRYou know I've taken students overseas half a dozen times, to Egypt, to South Africa, other places. And these are Howard students. These students are not scared of the world. They look at themselves as an ambassador, not only of their families, but their communities. And they are often the first ones off the plane, the first ones off the boat, the first ones to try something new. I think those are the type of students that black colleges attract generally.
NNAMDILezlie Baskerville, HBCUs came into existence because of, frankly, segregation and discrimination because these black students could not get into other schools. What role do black colleges and universities play today in the higher education landscape. And how has their mission changed in recent decades?
BASKERVILLEHBCUs today are on the creative forefront of preparing diverse students for all of the growth and high-needs areas. It's a fact that HBCUs, as a class, are just 3 percent of all American colleges and universities. But they are a $13 billion business, $13 billion business and they employ 188,000 people. They're located mostly in areas of high distress. And so their economic impact -- and $13 billion is short-term economic impact. Their economic impact is tremendous. So they're just 3 percent of all colleges and universities, but they're graduating about 60 percent of African American engineers, scientists, technological professionals.
BASKERVILLEThey're graduating 50 percent of African American teachers, many of whom go back into underserved areas and provide culturally competent education experiences for students and communities. HBCUs are doing the lion's share of preparing frontline workers in all of the growth and high-needs areas, health professionals and so forth. And so that's important to note. It's also important to note to go back to the previous caller or texter's question about federal investments. According to the National Science Foundation, eight historically white colleges and universities get the combined investment from the National Science Foundation that all HBCUs, all 105 Historically Black Colleges get.
BASKERVILLESo it's important to put into context that HBCUs are getting a negligible percentage of the federal investment, but the lion's share of preparing growth and high-needs students. Who are the students of today and tomorrow? The students are disproportionately low income, first generation. They're students of color, Latino, Asian Pacific, Islander, African American, Native American. And these are the students who are going to be on the frontlines of securing our communities, innovating and preparing for today's and tomorrow's work force, but also participating in the civic and economic life of the nation, driving the economy of the nation.
BASKERVILLEIn that regard, because of Howard University and other HBCUs, today African Americans have a trillion dollar income, African Americans, trillion dollars. That makes this community the size of the 16th largest nation in the world, if we were a nation. And so with Howard University driving that and the other HBCUs contributing, we're able to have an African American middleclass. We're able to lead in transforming communities. Not just those who enroll, but providing the healthcare services that our people need, providing all of the human needs programs that are needed and standing in the gap for our communities. But for our institutions, the communities that they service would be in much worse shape, as well.
NNAMDIThat said, Greg Carr, before I get back to the phones. Nevertheless, there was some concern among faculty and students during the course of the past two years or so when Howard, because of financial pressures, had layoffs, tuition raises, a reduction in scholarship funds, dorm fees increasing. Even as there were reports that members of the administration were receiving huge bonuses. Bonuses that, it must be pointed out, were apparently approved in 2007 and granted in 2010. But, nevertheless, the fact that they were revealed in 2012 caused a significant amount of unrest on campus.
CARRAbsolutely, they did. You know, one of Dr. Ribeau's strengths -- what some people might see as a weakness is his ability to engage these tough questions. He's very inclusive in his conversations. I think it's one of the reasons why he's very highly regarded by folks, regardless of where they come out in terms of other dimensions of leadership. That having been said, you know, the times are tough. And what you see with sequestration is Howard doesn’t get the funding it used to get. Most of our money coming from tuition and fees, but Howard, again, like other HBCUs is doing something other schools are even trying to do, provide education for folks, who many of them don't have the financial wherewithal to be able to just write the check.
CARRIt's a difficult situation. So we've had a real challenge these last couple of years. And part of the way that Dr. Ribeau dealt with those challenges was to really attempt transparency and have these tough conversations. And quite frankly, black colleges have to decide where they want to go.
NNAMDIDoes there have to be, in your view or did Dr. Ribeau institute a greater degree of transparency when it comes to such issues as executive compensation?
CARROh, yeah, absolutely. You know, it's interesting, he gave an annual State of the University address and he would always talk about that. When they published his salary in the student newspaper and I'm glad the student newspapers at Howard are no different than anywhere else. This is what they're supposed to do, you know, training for journalism. He addressed those questions up front. And I think one of the most important things Dr. Ribeau did -- and in retrospect I think we'll see over the years that this was a real major turning point in Howard's institutional life -- was create something called a Presidential Commission on academic renewal.
CARRWe looked at every academic program on the campus, with an eye toward institutionalizing what makes Howard and other black colleges unique, but also with a critical eye toward transforming ourselves for the anticipated changes in higher ed. That type of engagement -- it was mostly faculty-led initiative -- really opened up some conversations that, as far as I'm concerned, will transform higher education generally.
NNAMDIWe got a tweet from Celia, who says, "Not great experience at Howard, but I did learn to think critically. My experiences at Howard University were not always pleasant, but my ability to think critically increased immensely because I went there." And we got an email from Jim, in Silver Spring, who said, "The Obama administration has spoken out of both sides of its mouth on education. It says poor and middle class kids must attend college to have any chance of fully participating in the economy.
NNAMDIThen not only fails to fight to maintain student loan rates at three percent, but pushes adoption of market rates. It implements this apparent loan limit rule which has the effect of flushing low income kids out of college." And here's what Iris in Catonsville, Maryland would like to say. Iris, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
IRISHi, Kojo. I think that, as an alumni, that Howard could do a better job of reaching out to the alumni to help support his financial position. I'm also a graduate of Maryland and GW, and I am constantly receiving solicitations for donations, as well as invitations for events and calls from current students asking for support. And I probably haven't received a piece of paperwork from Howard in 15 years.
IRISSo, if they could mine that database of alumni, they might be able to find a couple of nuggets in there.
NNAMDII think there is general agreement about that everywhere, but allow me to have Greg Carr respond.
CARRThank you, Iris. More than a couple of nuggets. As I said earlier, the President of our National Alumni Association noted that Howard's alumni, rate of alumni give back is somewhere around 17 percent. That is far too low. It is also higher than a lot of other institutions, but it is still much lower than a lot of historically white schools, that have, some of them giving rates as high as 60 percent. We've gotta do a better job. Dr. Ribeau has talked about that a lot.
CARRI'm sure the next generation of leadership at Howard's gonna continue that conversation, and the bottom line is, we need you to give back. We had that conversation last month at the Howard Morehouse Symposium. Had an alumni panel that made that exact point, Iris, and we've got to do a much better job.
NNAMDIAnd that's across the board at HBCUs, Lezlie Baskerville.
BASKERVILLEYes it is.
IRISThe communication is not just about asking for money. It's about creating community. It's about having me as an alumni still feel like I am connected to the community of Howard. And that's where the real gold is, because then maybe I might decide, I should do it anyway, but maybe I might be more motivated to go out and work for Howard.
NNAMDIOkay. Iris, here's Lezlie Baskerville.
BASKERVILLEWell, no, I certainly appreciate and agree with your observation. African Americans, particularly those who have gone to HBCUs, do tend to invest less in their alma maters. There are some reasons, and there's no excuse. We all need to do better. But, what we find is that African Americans who go to HBCUs disproportionately go into service areas, and areas where they're not necessarily making as much as they would if they chose to go into, now a vocation just based on the dollars.
BASKERVILLEIn fact, one of the beauties of the education that we get at so many of our HBCUs, and at Howard University, is that you find your passion and you meld your passion with your profession. And so, in encouraging people to find their passion, we have disproportionate numbers of folks who go into government services. They go into work for, not for profits that are lined with their passions, and so forth. So, our incomes are generally lower.
BASKERVILLEBut as I pointed out, black combined wealth is one trillion dollars, and we do wanna get a larger share of that, not only from, from alumni, but from those who believe in the missions of HBCUs. HBCUs are historically black colleges and universities, but they're open to and inviting of, and back to your question, Kojo about who are HBCUs today? We want HBCUs to attract anyone who wants to get educated in, generally, a smaller, more nurturing environment and who wants to have not only outstanding academics, but trained and steeped in the best of the traditions of the African American family.
BASKERVILLEOf faith, our interconnectivity, of our sense that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers. And that, to the extent that we all rise together, we will rise higher than those who try to rise by stepping on the shoulders of another. So, we want all students who want an education in that type of environment, grounded in family and faith and the best of African American traditions to come to our schools. And we have the disciplines. We are excelling in the growth and high needs disciplines of today and tomorrow.
NNAMDIGotta take a short break. When we come back, if you called, stay on the line. We'll get to your calls. If you'd like to call, the number is 800-433-8850. How much funding should historically black colleges and universities get from the federal government, in your view? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on the challenges facing black colleges in general and Howard University in particular. We're talking with Lezlie Baskerville, President of the National Association For Equal Opportunity and Higher Education. She's a graduate of Howard University Law School. Greg Carr is Chair of Howard University's Afro American Studies Department, and a member of the Faculty Senate. I'd like to go now to Les in McLean, Virginia. Les, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LESHey, how are you, Kojo?
LESThank you for taking my call. I just wanted to weigh in on this interesting subject. I am a proud alumnus of Howard University College of Medicine. My grandfather went to Howard, graduated undergrad, went to Meharry for Medical School. My father went to Howard undergraduate, went to Meharry for Medical School. My father-in-law went to Morgan, graduated Howard Med. My mother-in-law went to Howard undergrad. My three in-laws -- one's a physician with the Howard Meharry. Other's a PhD in education. Other's a dentist. Howard in University of Maryland.
NNAMDIWhich means that you have to be a major alumni contributor to Howard University, right?
LESI'm a former member of the Howard University Medical Alumni Association.
LESI am an avid contributor and supporter of Howard. And to counteract some of the commentary about the contact that the Alumni Association has with their alumni, the Medical School does a very dynamic effort in trying to reach out to its alumni. There's routine phone banks of medical students contacting alumni. We have an active Facebook page. We have fundraising efforts in the local community as well as nationwide. An effort to try to galvanize our fellow alumnus to contribute back to the university.
LESThe difficulty is that in fundraising, we don't recognize that African Americans, as a community, give more than any other community philanthropically. The problem is that many of us have issues with making the ask, and asking our friends and our family and fellow alumni to give. So, if we just get over the hump and get more aggressive, Howard would receive more resources and more money from the alumni.
NNAMDIA lot of that philanthropy goes to our churches. Lezlie Baskerville.
BASKERVILLEYeah, disproportionate amounts of dollars. In fact, all the studies indicate that African Americans give proportionately more than any other group of Americans to their faith institutions, and so, as we think about creative partnerships to raise additional resources for our campuses, certainly the faith investment, our faith communities, partnering with at least the HBCUs in their community. So, if we took the African American churches in Washington, D.C. and had an HBCU Sunday where they would invest in Howard.
BASKERVILLEThey would invest in the University of the District of Columbia. We could go a long ways toward filling the immediate gap that has been experienced by UDC and by Howard as the result of the Department of Education's shift in Parent Plus Loan programs. But, we do have to work on and figure out how to leverage the dollars that we're investing in our churches. Not to invest less, but certainly, if we added a little to that which we are giving, designated it for our HBCUs, we could move further.
BASKERVILLEBut I want to respond to the question about dollars. How much money should the nation invest in HBCUs? Well, they should at least invest proportionate, the same proportion of dollars that they invest in historically white colleges and universities. The caller and others always ask, why should we invest in HBCUs? Because HBCUs are having disproportionately favorable results in graduating the growing populations of the nation in the growth and high needs area.
BASKERVILLESo, if we got a federal investment that was proportionate with our outcomes, that would be great. But we're nowhere near that, so the federal government acknowledged that the HBCUS are vitally important to the economy, to the work force goals, to our education goals, and with bipartisan support -- the Republicans and Democrats, down through the years, they have invested in HBCUs because they understand the value, the educational market that they're meeting that is not met by any other institution, to the extent that our institutions are doing it.
BASKERVILLEAnd today, in the growth and high needs areas. And so, we must continue to, and increase the investment at least until we get a proportionate share with our historically white colleges and universities.
NNAMDIA lot of competition for students at all universities today with the introduction of online classes, the rise of for profit colleges. How well do you think black colleges and universities communicate their mission in the way that Lezlie has been communicating and their strength to prospective students?
CARRI think that we're a best kept secret. And I think part of that is because after integration we've really struggled to embrace the fact that we now must retool those visions to connect to a global environment. Dubois said it best, I think. In 1960, he gave an address at Johnson C. Smith University entitled, "Wither Now and Why." He said, Jim Crow will end. That's going to end. Then, the question, the real question will emerge, what will black Americans be?
CARRAnd I think black colleges have sometimes hesitated to embrace their real historical missions in the face of integration. It hasn't really been well defined. Our competition really is us. People talk about the real world. They say, oh, you shouldn't go to a black school. It's not in the real world. The real world is nine tenths non white. In fact, black colleges have the real opportunity to build from that space. And I'm glad Les brought up the point of giving and alumni connections from the Schools of Medicine.
CARRWhen we disaggregate universities by schools, and Howard, of course, being a university, you see, our medical school graduates are all over the world. Same thing with architecture and engineering. Same thing in fine arts. Same thing in law. And what we find is that those types of students really are prepared to engage in global conversations. You go to the U.N., you're gonna find Howard graduates. Go to Capitol Hill, the staffers are Howard graduates.
CARRWe haven't embraced the challenge, I think, as black colleges, to really grow into our real missions, which are global missions. Not really, even as much, national missions.
NNAMDILet's see what Robert in Washington, D.C. has to say about that. Robert, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ROBERTYeah, hi guys. Kojo, this is my actually first time listening, but I'm glad you're doing this show. I didn't attend an HBCU. I went to a privately white institute. But I've always thought HBCUs do a great job of networking. I've always been envious of some of my friends and colleagues who have that strong network. One thing I see a challenge with HBCUs and their students, and I'm particularly talking about the young alumni, is once you get out of college, I find that a lot of students from HBCUs kind of fall in their shell when they're in a position where they're the only black student.
ROBERTOr the only black young professional in the room. You know, they fall into, well, I don't feel as empowered as I did in college, so now I'm doubting myself. What I would like to see is more HBCUs get away from the idea of, you know, this is our college and this is us, but more so provide them, this is our college, this is us, and when you get out there, represent yourself more.
NNAMDIWe were talking about the exact opposite of that, earlier in the discussion in the studio, so your perspective is really interesting. Here's Greg Carr.
CARRNo, I was just gonna say very quickly, when I left Tennessee State, my undergraduate school, HBCU, and went to Ohio State Law School, you know, I found the exact opposite. In fact, I found a couple of things. I found that, and I don't want to stereotype, but quite often, black students from historically white colleges and universities seemed more ready to accept external opinions of them that were typed by race.
CARRIt seemed to me that the black college students I went to school with, guys who graduated from Howard, women who had graduated from Spelman and Wilberforce and Florida A&M, we were the first ones to categorically reject the idea that not only, we weren't as good as students, but we weren't better. And, in fact, what we often found is, and what we often find is, I see this with graduates from HBCUs as well, my students over the last 10, 12 years.
CARRThey often have students who went to white schools repurpose how they look at themselves. The contact, I mean, it's like, they begin to look and say, wait a minute, why am I even tolerating this kind of conversation? I'd be interested in hearing some more from Robert, at some point, about, you know, where he got this experience. Because I don't doubt it, I just haven't had it.
BASKERVILLEAnd I'm sure Robert has had that experience in his environment, but the data are unequivocal. Studies have been done year after year and one of our presidents, President Brown down at Alcorn State University, before he assumed the helm there, was a leading researcher in this area. And what the research shows is that when students graduate from HBCUs, they have built the confidence that allows them to excel.
BASKERVILLEAnd they compared students graduating from HBCUs in stem with those that were graduating from MIT, Georgia Tech, and some of the world class, historically white research institutions, and they found -- the data show disproportionate percentages of African Americans graduating from HBCUs go directly into graduate and professional schools. They have a confidence that says, I can excel anywhere in the world.
NNAMDIWe're running out of time very, very quickly.
BASKERVILLEThey carry that not only to graduate and professional schools, but also into the work force. So, the date are contrary to your personal experience.
NNAMDIWe have about a minute left, Lezlie, and you have said that black colleges need to get more creative about generating revenue, like finding ways to turn cost centers into funding streams. What do you mean by that?
BASKERVILLEWell, the first thing is that HBCUs need to get a fair share of public dollars, and we cannot absolve the federal government and state governments from investing our tax dollars and those things that are important to us. And so, that's the first thing that we have to do. Secondly, we have to be more creative and think about other ways. We have to turn our research into dollars for us. We have to patent our goods and services and get trademarks and so forth.
BASKERVILLEWe have to find ways of transforming cost centers into independent funding streams by either making goods and services available to the community or otherwise. We also have to collaborate, but, importantly, and now all of this is tied in with making sure that we have the right elected officials...
NNAMDILezlie Baskerville is President of National Association For Equal Opportunity In Higher Education. Greg Carr is Chair of Howard University's Afro American Studies Department. Thank you both for joining us. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Kojo talks with author Briana Thomas about her book “Black Broadway In Washington D.C.,” and the District’s rich Black history.
Poet, essayist and editor Kevin Young is the second director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. He joins Kojo to talk about his vision for the museum and how it can help us make sense of this moment in history.
Ms. Woodruff joins us to talk about her successful career in broadcasting, how the field of journalism has changed over the decades and why she chose to make D.C. home.