Stop Missing the HBCU Opportunity

Without naming any names, I know there are folks in the workplace who disregard my suggestions. It’s okay… but understand that you’re not hurting me. It’s the students that you’re hurting. Here is an example…

One of the awesome treasures at the disposal of the Delaware Valley and the Mid-Atlantic States is the Malcolm Bernard HBCU College Fair. I reached out to some guidance counselors and informed them over the summer that this was happening this month. I encouraged them to take groups of students to the fair. I heard from none of these people. Not an acknowledgement that they received my email. Not a confirmation that they were taking a group or even that their office informed students of it.

I took it upon myself to inform students and thankfully, there are some student who said they would attend. But there is still more work to be done to get the word out.

Taken from their website, the Malcolm Bernard Historically Black Colleges and Universities College Fair is the largest HBCU College Fair on the East Coast. Our historic college recruiting week has a track record of attracting nearly 12,000 students each year from NJ, NY, PA, DE, CT, MA, MD, ME, NH, and VT. The Malcolm Bernard College Fair took place this month held in Camden, NJ and Philadelphia.

The organization is based in New Jersey.

I found out about it years ago from a colleague who scheduled groups from the school we worked at to attend. I was able to take a group twice from a previous school I worked at thanks to a connection I had with a former college counselor of mine who works at Lincoln University who serves on the organization’s board.

Students must come prepared for a college interview when attending. That means they should be dressed to impress, have a smile on their face and their paperwork in hand i.e. transcript, report card, letters of recommendation, SAT & ACT scores and a resume. On the spot admissions decisions is a regular thing. I’ve witnessed students receive acceptance letters and scholarships on the spot. This is indeed the day for students to shoot their shot.

Guidance counselors, particularly those who work at schools that serve any population of Black students, absolutely MUST promote HBCU’s to students. But I wonder if guidance counselors are aware of HBCUs. This is why representation in spaces such as guidance counseling (in addition to teaching) matters. In New Jersey, according to state department of education statistics, 72.5% of the state’s 2,447 schools (or 1,775 schools) do not have a Black guidance counselor.

HBCU’s or historically Black colleges and Universities were established prior to the 1960’s for the purpose of providing higher education to Black people. Currently, there are 105 HBCUs across the United States, Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands. Why HBCUs? Though they represent less than 3 percent of all colleges and universities, they are responsible for awarding 18 percent of all degrees earned by Black undergraduates.

Here are some quick things that guidance counselors can do to help students in the immediate with applying to HBCU now that the HBCU college fairs are coming to a close:

  1. Refer Students to the HBCU Common App – Just like there is a common app for many PWIs (predominately White Institutions), there is a common app for HBCU’s. You can find that website here. There are 56 member institutions and the cost is a one-time fee of $35.
  2. Refer Students to HBCU Scholarships – there are specific organizations designed to support students who attend HBCUs. Here are some of them: the HBCU Foundation, the United Negro College Fund, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, and the Tom Joyner Foundation.
  3. Learn about the power and impact of HBCUs and other minority service institutions for Black students and other students of color. Visit the Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Graduate School of Education’s Center for Minority Serving Institutions, the Education Trust, for more information.

When an educator of color reaches out to you regarding students and informing them of HBCUs, don’t disregard them. Ask questions, find out for yourself and promote to Black students as well as others. Again, by failing to do so, you’re only hurting the students you claim to care about so much.

Let’s continue to press towards the mark!


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