Where Do We Go From Here?: Exploring Retention and Engagement at HBCUs

Where Do We Go From Here?: Exploring Retention and Engagement at HBCUs

Errick Farmer (Florida A&M University, USA), Kelsey Kunkle (University of North Texas, USA), Sundra D. Kincey (Florida A&M University, USA), Cheree Y. Wiltsher (Florida A&M University, USA) and Adriel A. Hilton (Seton Hill University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7021-9.ch009

Abstract

For over 150 years, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played a significant role in providing a quality education to millions of families. The nation's HBCUs add a rich texture to the fabric of higher education in the United States. Their legacy is one of access and opportunity. In order for HBCUs to continue their legacy, they will need to continually examine their retention and engagement strategies, particularly when there are major factors that contribute to an institution's credibility and financial stability at a time when greater emphasis is being placed on these indicators in higher education in the United States. It is critically important HBCUs to address the challenges surrounding student retention and engagement, especially for traditionally underrepresented groups, and start a dialogue to embrace change and improvement in their efforts to increase retention and student engagement.
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The Impact Of Hbcus As Iconic Institutions Of Hope

While many individuals may already be familiar with HBCUs, it is important to establish the historical context of why these institutions were founded and how its history may still have an impact on present day enrollment, retention, and student engagement. It is well known that Southern states remained entrenched in racism and fear of a power disruption long after the Civil War, which made them reluctant to embrace the forthcoming trends developing nationally to begin a phenomenon of educating Black communities and former slaves. However, there was no way to get around it with the passing of the second Morrill Act of 1890, which threatened the loss of federal funding unless agricultural and mechanical institutions were established to serve Black students (Exkano, 2013). Although this legislation resulted in the creation of 17 land-grant institutions to serve the Black population, this structure of higher education was “not preparing alumni for professions and fields associated with leadership and genuine power” (Exkano, 2013; Thelin, 2011, p. 102).-

Despite inequitable funding and having been created within a “system that was never designed for [them] to succeed,” HBCUs managed to provide unprecedented educational access to a historically disenfranchised race of people within the U.S. (Exkano, 2013, p.65). By the time of the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) landmark case, HBCUs had enrolled 90% of all Black college students, making these institutions the primary contributor to the cultivation of the Black middle class (Exkano, 2013). By 2016, there were a total of 102 HBCUs located across 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (NCES Fast Facts, 2018).

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