Education Policy & Practice

Archive for November 30th, 2009

States with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

Barbour, in response to questions during his presentation, said he was not worried that the proposal would appear racially insensitive. The HBCUs were selected for merger because they were more alike, he said, and faced with a shrinking budget, the state cannot afford eight universities.

Education accounts for 60 percent of Mississippi’s state budget, and therefore was hit hard in Gov. Haley Barbour’s Executive Budget Recommendation for Fiscal Year 2011.  In addition to K-12 proposed cuts, at the higher education level, Barbour would like to fold Mississippi Valley State Univesrsity and Alcorn State University into the larger Jackson State University, which is intended to shrink administrative costs.

One major issue to address is the Ayers settlement.  The result of a 1975 lawsuit that alleged Mississippi discriminated against these three public HBCUs through its funding process, the Ayers settlement, according to the 2002 ruling forced the Legislature to provide $503 million to these institutions over a 17-year period.  The settlement calls for, among other things:

  • $246 million to be spent on academics at the three universities in order to attract more white students.
  • $75 million would benefit capital improvements.
  • $70 million to public endowments.
  • $35 million on private endowments.

University of Pennsylvania Professor Marybeth Gasman, had this to say:

If you look at historically black institutions, they often have very much diversity.  I think sometimes we just look at skin color and we assume sameness.

She also pointed to the varying missions at the schools: Valley State is located in one of the poorest regions of the country and primarily serves students in that area; Alcorn State places emphasis on agriculture; and Jackson State is Mississippi’s only public urban university.

Read MVSU’s response to Governor Barbour’s proposal here.

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