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La. HBCUs receive federal dollars

24th September 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Mason Harrison
Contributing Writer

Six historically Black colleges and universities in Louisiana will receive almost $20 million in new federal funding as part of an overall Education Department plan to boost educational opportunities for Black students in the state as higher education costs continue to rise and the rate for on-time graduation for undergraduates nationwide stretches beyond the traditional four-year timeframe as students struggle with bigger bills and limited access to scholarship dollars.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu announced grants Sept. 18 for Xavier, Dillard and Grambling State universities and funding for the entire Southern University system, with its campuses in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport. Xavier will receive $3.2 million with $2 million and $3.4 million slated for Dillard and Grambling State respectively. Southern University in Baton Rouge will receive $5.3 million and its affiliated institutions will grab $2.5 million in New Orleans and $2.8 million in Shreveport.

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” Landrieu said in a statement, “have a strong tradition in Louisiana. They play an important role in developing the next generation of leaders and I have always supported providing them with the resources they need to offer quality academic programs. These grants help ensure that these institutions of higher learning continue providing a world-class education to their students who make strong contributions to our state.”

The funding comes in the wake of past controversies over state funding for historically Black schools, with Black education advocates accusing the state of shortchanging minority institutions while providing better resources to predominantly white universities. The five-year grants are administered by the Education Department’s Office of Post­secondary Education, which runs a program designed to sustain the more than 100 historically and predominantly Black college and universities, schools that graduate a large percentage of Black professionals in a number of different fields.

“As a graduate of a historically Black college,” U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond said in a statement, “I am especially pleased that the Department of Education recognizes the need and importance of investing in these institutions. Today I celebrate with the students, alumni, and faculty at Southern, Dillard, Grambling, and Xavier universities. The funding announced today will ensure that our students and communities who continue the legacy of attending Louisiana’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities do so at the finest facilities we can provide.” Richmond is a graduate of Morehouse College.

Dr. Ray Belton, who heads Southern’s Shreveport campus, lauded the funding for Louisiana HBCUs. “Suffice it to say, Southern University at Shreveport is pleased to have been awarded funding for this grant cycle under the, Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities Initiative and stands committed to fulfilling those goals and activities that are defined in the Title III grant program. Furthermore, the University would like to take this opportunity to express its appreciation to the Department of Education and those Congres­sional leaders who continue to advocate on behalf of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and particularly with regard to Southern University at Shreve­port.”

More than 30,000 students are enrolled at Louisiana’s Black universities and the schools provide a strong base for providing Black professionals with the training needed to advance in their careers. Richmond said the multi-million dollar grants will help usher in “improvements in curriculum, student services, and campus facilities are all investments that Louisiana will see reflected in the quality of our workforce and in the standard of excellence represented at these fine institutions.”

Dillard has already specified its plans for the grant dollars. A spokesperson for the university said the school intends to use the funding “to strengthen technology and library support; bolster the Center for the First-Year Experience; enhance [research efforts], environmental science, international business, nursing, and public health curriculums; and improve research and development infrastructure. The goal, as always, is to increase student success and achievement.”

HBCUs are colleges and universities that were set up to educate Black students during the era of segregation prior to 1964. Today, Black schools with large Black student populations that were either created or became majority-Black after 1964 are known as predominantly Black institutions, or PBIs.

This article was originally published in the September 24, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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