Officials to Congress: Historically black colleges’ tech funds lacking

Posted 9:04 p.m. Feb 25

by Jamie Meltzer

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Traditionally black universities are far behind the technology curve and suffer from a lack of funding, black academic leaders testified to Congress Feb. 13.

Fredrick Humphries, president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, recalled his memories of the Plessy v. Ferguson case making segregation legal and the Jim Crow laws before a joint hearing of the House Education and Workforce Subcommittees on Select Education and 21st Century Competitiveness on Feb. 13.

The joint hearing was organized to discuss the needs of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as compared to President George W. Bush’s higher education budget proposal.

Bush’s recent budget proposal did not ask Congress for an increase in the funds currently allocated to financial aid, despite Humphries’ statements of a growing need.

“Believe me when I say, in looking at issues related to equal opportunity and educational access, I truly know how far we have come as a nation, and how far we yet have to go,” Humphries said.

Humphries recommended that for educational opportunities to grow, $26 million more must be allocated by the federal government to HBCUs.

The United States currently has 118 institutions termed HCBUs, institutions founded with the intention of educating primarily African-American students. Most were established in the South after the Civil War to prepare blacks for vocational careers and compensate for the lack of educational opportunities available in this region.

Today, the majority of HBCUs do not have high-speed connectivity to the Internet, 75 percent of students cannot afford their own computers and 90 percent of students receive some sort of financial aid, according to Humphries’ testimony.

This, according to Humphries, is largely because the majority of blacks nationwide earn less than $25,000 annually.

“In order for the United States to remain competitive, she must educate more and more of her people,” said William DeLauder, Delaware State University president, in his testimony before the joint committee. “The history and success of HBCUs present a compelling case for achieving this objective.”

Bernard Milano, president of the KPMG foundation and a member of the president’s advisory committee on HBCUs, said black institutions traditionally face financial obstacles. HCBUs cannot rely on endowments, Milano said, like “mainstream” institutions.

Traditionally, these schools were vocational and did not intend to prepare black for high-paying positions because few were open to them, hence decreasing the number of wealthy alumni.

In 1999, the federal government awarded $14 billion to institutions of higher learning for research and development, according to data compiled by the National Science Foundation. Less than one percent of the total, $164 million, was awarded to HBCUs.

“No one ever feels they have enough money allocated to what they stand for. We have to wait for the budget to play out, it still has to go through Congress,” Milano said.

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