HBCUs = historically black colleges and universities
Will Bunch, the awesome opinion columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, calls our attention to a proposal by George Miller ("Move Cheyney University to the Navy Yard") suggesting that Cheyney University of Pennsylvania--the nation's first HBCU, located in suburban Delaware County, 24 miles from Philadelphia--relocate to Philadelphia's Navy Yard and focus on educating the city's people of color from a far more convenient location. From the article:
Cheyney, located about 30 miles from the city, is the oldest historically Black college or university in the country (though nearby Lincoln University was the first HBCU to offer degrees).
Forty-three percent of the 1.5 million people in Philadelphia are Black or African American, and the vast majority of them do not hold college degrees. That limits their employment opportunities. Black students can attend any college, of course, but HBCUs tend to offer a greater sense of community and more support than students might find at predominantly white institutions.
Only about 13% of Temple University’s undergraduates are African American and about 8% of the University of Pennsylvania’s students identify as Black or African American. Both schools have long-standing Black communities adjacent to their campuses, but the relationships with those communities are often tense. Those areas are among the poorest in the city.
Having a historic HBCU in Philadelphia would create affordable and appealing opportunities for people who might not otherwise seek higher education. That would be good for Cheyney, too.
I was thinking that was an incredibly great idea, and ruing how former mayor of Washington Anthony Williams' idea of relocating the University of District of Columbia to the St. Elizabeths campus east of the river was shot down 20 years ago ("UDC is focused on the wrong students," Forest Hills Connection).
If you relocate it does it matter? But then I thought, well, Baltimore has two HBCUs located within the city, albeit on the outskirts, Coppin State and Morgan State ("Morgan State University should move their architecture and planning school to Downtown/Station North Arts District"), and they aren't particularly central to the city and its ability to stoke educational attainment amongst the city's youth.
Chicago State University was buffeted by funding issues sparked by a fight between the state's former Republican governor and the Democratic state legislature, which severely crippled the school's ability to function.
Just because you locate Cheyney in Philadelphia, if it's not capable of repositioning and becoming more innovative, and maybe with free tuition (like CUNY), would the relocation have all that much impact?
Columbus, Ohio has just announced a program that will provide free tuition to the local community college for city school graduates ("New program offers Columbus City Schools graduates free tuition at Columbus State," Columbus Dispatch). From the article:
The next three classes of Columbus City Schools graduates will be able to attend Columbus State Community College for free under a new initiative announced Wednesday morning.
"We are hoping to make Columbus the best city to learn, earn and achieve your dreams,” said Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin. “For too many folks, they don’t see a pathway past high school. We are making a promise that we will support you in going after your dreams.”
The program, called the Columbus Promise, is set to start with the district's current senior class and is being funded by the city of Columbus, Columbus schools, Columbus State and other local groups interested in seeing students succeed and go onto college.
In fact, the great 2018 series in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on HBCUs had a story on Cheyney's problems, "Cheyney University: The oldest HBCU faces an uphill struggle."
I'm not sure the University of the District of Columbia is particularly noteworthy on this dimension either ("Speaking of planning for higher education: more on the University of the District of Columbia," 2012).
And Howard University -- "The Mecca" -- is located in DC too, but doesn't necessarily have all that much impact on the city's minority student population and college attainment. Not unlike Morgan State, it's a cloistered place separate from the rest of the city. Plus, it has serious management issues ("‘We won’: Howard protesters reach deal with university and end month-long occupation," Washington Post).
Although cloister and location is central to Miller's recommendation that Cheyney be relocated to a central location within Philadelphia, at the Navy Yard, and as part of a broader initiative creating a special campus for multiple colleges to offer programs.
Urban universities and colleges and first generation college students. How many city-based HBCUs and Predominately Minority Institutions (PMIs) have performed the way that City College did and does in New York City ("American Dream Machine: The City University of New York aggressively moves poor kids into the middle class.," City Journal) in educating first generation college students, contributing to the local economy (CUNY's Contribution to NYC, NYC Comptroller's Office), and boosting graduates into the nation's middle class?
There are other urban universities that had a similar place in their communities historically, although perhaps less so today, including the University of Baltimore, what is now Wayne State University in Detroit, City College of San Francisco, and Metropolitan State University in Denver, although for some cities community colleges have taken on this role, or state universities have created city units, like the University of Illinois Chicago, Cal State Los Angeles and the University of Colorado.
Not exactly the same, but some colleges like Dartmouth offer access to college classes to area high school students. And some colleges have developed special integrated high school/college programs like the Bard College High School, which has multiple campuses.
-- Center for First-Generation Student Success
-- Degrees of Difficulty: Boosting College Student Success in New York City, Center for an Urban Future
-- "Why free community college is necessary but insufficient for true student success," University Business
HBCUs/Predominately Minority Institutions that are particularly successful. Recently I wrote about the University of Maryland Baltimore County upon the announcement by its President that he will be retiring ("Freeman Hrabowski and "urban universities""). UMBC has become the number one college in the country in educating minority students for entrance into graduate and professional schools.
And some of the HBCUs in Atlanta, like Spelman College ("A Culture of Success: Black Alumnae Discussions of the Assets-Based Approach at Spelman College," Journal of Higher Education), Morehouse College ("A prescription for more black doctors," New York Times), and Clark Atlanta University ("Applying IRSS Theory: The Clark Atlanta University Exemplar," Decision Sciences) have a similar kind of impact and could be models for similar initiatives elsewhere.
The AJC series reports on how Greensboro, North Carolina-based North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University has set the stretch goal of being the best academic HBCU in the country ("A&T: An HBCU powerhouse rises in Greensboro").
Greensboro's economic development agenda is predicated in part on a focus of leveraging its multiple higher education institutions and NCA&T is a key element of the strategy ("Better leveraging higher education institutions in cities and counties: Greensboro; Spokane; Mesa; Phoenix; Montgomery County, Maryland; Washington, DC").
The University of Texas El Paso is widely known as being particularly successful for graduating first generation Hispanic students ("UTEP encouraging first-generation student success," KFOX14). From the article:
UTEP's current initiatives are geared toward boosting retention rates by working closely with students. They include:
- A first-generation course — UNIV 1301 — designed to prepare students for internships, employment, undergraduate research, and community-engaged learning experiences.
- Summer bridge programs offered to entering students, freshmen, and sophomores targeted to help students continue their momentum between those years.
- Wraparound services including tutoring, advising, coaching, and mentoring to help students successfully complete their courses.
- First-generation peer leaders, instructors, mentors, advisors, and alumni will be accessible to students as part of the mentorship program.
- The program will prepare first-generation students for college by helping them develop writing, communication, and critical thinking skills through a variety of methods.
The first-generation program aims to work with students through their first 45 semester credit hours and improve student retention. The program focuses on celebrating student success by fostering students’ diverse backgrounds, strengths, and skillsets.
Conclusion. While the idea is great, it needs a lot more than simply relocating Cheyney University and plopping it down in Philadelphia to have the kind of impact that Mr. Miller believes could result.
1. Relocating Cheyney University to Philadelphia would only be a first step.
2. The second and most important step is rebuilding Cheyney University from the ground up, using schools like Spelman, Morehouse, UMBC, and NC A&T as models of HBCU/PMI best practices, along with other examples of premier education attainment for first generation college students.
3. The third step is integrating the relocated and repositioned school into the community so that it can have the same kind of effect on the minority college student population within Philadelphia specifically, the way that colleges like UMBC do, but in a less place specific manner.
4. Ideally with free tuition for residents of Philadelphia and adjoining counties, not unlike New York State's free tuition program for the State University as well as CUNY.
Labels: change-innovation-transformation, community development, economic development, equity planning, higher education, organizational development, urban colleges and universities, workforce development