COMMENTARY: All 106 HBCU’s Need Help or Face Extinction

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“All 106 HBCU’s are in need,” Cooper said Wednesday when I asked him which black colleges need the most immediate help.

This is Cooper’s first week on the job and one of his challenges is changing the perception that the Obama administration hasn’t done enough for black colleges.

It’s no secret that presidents at black colleges are frustrated, anxious – and, frankly, angry at Obama. Some want to sue the administration to force the government to spend more money on HBCU’s.

Cooper talked about helping black colleges, but he also stressed the importance of accountability among black colleges, too. Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded Howard University’s credit rating, saying the university has lost too much of its patient revenue at its hospital.

And Renee Higginbotham-Brooks, the vice chair of Howard’s board of trustees, says if Howard doesn’t fix its financial problems immediately, the university could cease to exist in three years.

“I can no longer sit quietly, notwithstanding my personal preference to avoid confrontation, and therefore, I am compelled to step forward to announce that our beloved university is in genuine trouble and time is of the essence,'” Higginbotham-Brooks wrote in a letter to the board.

Last year, Morris Brown College in Atlanta filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an attempt to prevent foreclosure and sale of the school at auction after serious financial mismanagement. The college lost its accreditation, is not receiving federal funding, but is still open and accepting students.

HBCU presidents can be mad at Obama, but the harsh reality is this: Some of these wounds are self-inflicted and black colleges have to keep their finances in order to stay in business.

Duncan, however, maintained that Howard University, a flagship college among HBCU’s, must be preserved.

“Howard is facing real challenges but it is an extraordinarily important institution for this country,” Duncan said.  “We need Howard not only to survive, but to thrive.”

HBCU’s need help and they deserve it, but black college presidents must also hold themselves accountable, balance their books, and strive for fiscal integrity.

(Photo: Courtesy of Michael Cottman)

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