June 24, 2024

Black college students share pros and cons of Historically Black Colleges versus Predominantly White Institutions – New York Daily News

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The college experience is one black graduates hold near and dear — whether they choose to spend four years at Harvard or Howard.
The debate between historically black colleges versus predominantly white institutions lit up social media this week as the spotlight on campus racism grew more intense.
Black college graduates offered honest depictions of the college experience using the hashtag #BlackonCampus. The tweets quickly turned into a book of disheartening stories told by marginalized students, many of whom are bonded by the same fears.
“Telling the administration about racism and them telling you to solve it,” was #BlackonCampus for one student. “Having to act like s–t doesn’t happen because you don’t want to be seen as that black student always ‘pulling the race card,’” chimed another.
Viral memes, including one using an image of Spike Lee who attended Atlanta’s Morehouse College, circulated on social media to encourage black college students to “come home.”
“Without critical mass understanding of the culture, a black student attending a PWI will essentially feel isolated,” says Paula Ioanide, associate professor at Ithaca College’s Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity. “There has to be a niche on campus that reflects minorities.”
Some began to ponder whether PWIs like Mizzou, where black students make up only 7 percent of the population, are the best option to seek a fulfilling education.
Prior to the Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954, HBCUs existed as federal inventions to offer black students opportunities to learn a basic skill or a trade.
However, over the years the concept has flourished to include a host of vocational and liberal arts academic programs.
“Going to an HBCU, depending on which one, can give you great networks, but if your aim is to attend Harvard Law, PWIs are more reputable,” Ioanide said.
The Daily News asked alumni of both types of institutions to weigh in on the pros and cons.
“My HBCU was far more intimate than my PWI.”
Shivonne Odom is a mental health therapist from Washington, D.C., who attended the University of Massachusetts in Boston for her bachelor’s degree in psychology and Howard University in Washington, D.C., for her master’s degree in counseling psychology. While Odom says her experience at a PWI was “some of the best days of her life,” the 33-year-old called her classmates and professors at Howard her “stern family members.”
“When I joined black organizations on campus, things really blossomed. I was lonely for the first two years.”
Since attending PWIs for most of her school years, Johanamarie Williams wanted to experience life at an HBCU, choosing to enroll in Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University for post-grad. Most of Williams’ professors at FSU attempted to offer a diverse perspective of writing and philosophy, but she said there was no substitute for being taught by black professors on the works of black scholars.
“The educational experience at my HBCU was good, but to be truthful it wasn’t that challenging.”
The deciding factor for 25-year-old D’Ante Ricardo Smith was the academic and athletic scholarships he received from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, but it lacked valuable internship opportunities. After graduating in 2012, Smith went on to American University for his post-graduate studies which he counts for landing him internships at the Washington Post and ChatSports.com.
“I gained a better education at my PWI, but lost the support from professors because my classes were twice as big than it was at my HBCU.”
Starting her collegiate career at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C., Jada Carter left after two years to attend Towson University in her home state of Maryland. The 24-year-old accountant says Towson lived up to her expectations, but she had to work twice as hard to prove herself to her caucasian classmates.
“I did not receive as much financial assistance at my PWI as I thought I deserved. That was the big price I had to pay.”
Christian Harrison is currently a graduating senior at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., after transferring from North Carolina A&T State University. The track and field runner says leaving the HBCU had a lot to do with the school’s athletic program. The training groups, facilities and overall competition was better at the PWI.
“I was the only African-American female in a class of 500 people at my PWI, so I felt I could never be late and I could never miss a class.”
Wanting to stray away from her older brothers’ legacy of attending an HBCU, Jennifer Price, 25, enrolled in North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., but quickly realized it wasn’t for her. The project engineer transferred to North Carolina A&T State University to earn her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. The academic program graduates the most African-American engineers throughout the country.
“I made lifelong friends at my PWI, however I always label my arrival there as complete culture shock.”
Jametta La’Shay Black says the student body at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University oozed with confidence and purpose, but she realized she needed to buckle down to finish her degree in mechanical engineering. She transferred to Clemson, a PWI, which she says prepared her for her future experiences as a black female engineer.
“My high school had racial tension, and my graduating class had only a handful of black students. I thought Howard might be a good change of pace.”
After attending Howard University, Marie Smith says the programs at HBCUs were ranked too low. She decided to take on a scholarship at Indiana University where she said it was an enjoyable experience.
camos@nydailynews.com, sburt@nydailynews.com
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