When I formed the Tom Joyner Foundation along with my sons 12 years ago, it was a way for me to do something I learned from my mom – to give back.

When people ask me about how much money the foundation has given to help students remain in historically black colleges and universities, they are often more impressed with the $60 million amount than the reason I did it. I did it because it was what I was able to do. What I want people to understand most about giving is that they should never get caught up in what other people are doing or not doing. Their only concern should be doing what they’re able to do. It could be to give money, time, talent or prayer. It’s all needed in most situations.

What I’ve always wanted to do, even more than give money to students who were already attending HBCUs, was to find away for EVERYONE to go. When I first made that wish known several years ago, it seemed about as likely as seeing an African-American president in our lifetime! I haven’t found a way to make that happen exactly, but I’m getting closer. Today, I proudly announce HBCUsOnline, an online degree program that will make it possible for more people to realize their dream (and my dream for them) of getting a degree from a historically black college or university.

HBCUsOnline was born out of love – and practicality. Let’s face it: As much as we love and cherish HBCUs and will continue to be devoted to what they’ve given to so many of us, it’s no secret that enrollment at HBCUs continues to go down. Fewer blacks are attending HBCUs, but more black people are seeking degrees. Instead of attending traditional institutions, many are turning to mainstream online colleges. In fact, there are more black students enrolled at the University of Phoenix than all of the HBCUs combined.

So, what can we learn from this staggering statistic? Mainly, that it’s a new day, and people are not just looking for – but have found – a new way. For me, there were two choices: We could either watch the game or get in it!

The reality is that a lot of us don’t realize how important it is to have a college degree until we’re on a job or in a career where there’s no way to advance because we don’t have the proper credentials. So, even though kids fresh out of high school are welcome to enroll, the real idea of HBCUsOnline is to cater to older adults who recognize that a degree or certificate isn’t just helpful in today’s world; it’s mandatory to succeed.

But why should mainstream online colleges like University of Phoenix have all the fun? They won’t now that we’re in business.

HBCUsOnline brings to the table all that you would want from a historically black college or university – the nurturing, the legacy, the pride, the fun and, most importantly, the expectation of success.

Right now, you can enroll and begin working toward becoming a graduate of either Hampton or Texas Southern University, and more universities will be announced soon. Along with all the courses of study needed, HBCUsOnline has your back. Our Student Support Plus program gives you individualized assistance from registration to graduation. We’ve been there, and we know all that it takes to get you through.

The bottom line is we’re giving you an opportunity to become more than a number; we’re offering you a chance to become a family member. Join the family of HBCU graduates, or at least find out if the time is right for you. Go to HBCUsOnline and get all the information.

It’s new day and a great day! HBCUsOnline is open for business! Go, Tigers! Go, Pirates! Go register! It’s HBCUsOnline. And don’t forget the “S.”

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