This past week, I gave a talk at the North Carolina Minority Economic Development Institute and I was asked to answer the following question: "Which HBCUs will survive and why?" Based on my research and work with HBCUs over the past 15 years, here is my response:
Those HBCUs that will survive in the 21st century are those:
1. .... that have an institutional niche -- a strength -- something that makes them stand out. Strong programs draw students, funders, and alumni support.
2. .... that are led by bold leaders with brave sensibilities.
3. .... with leaders that make decisions based on data -- data at the institutional level as well as at the state and federal level.
4. .... with presidents that speak out on national higher education issues, especially those that directly influence HBCUs.
5. .... that look closely at their retention and graduation rates and if they don't see change and improvement, they make immediate change.
6. .... that learn to 'manage up' in terms of their funder relationships. If you get funding, you have to make sure that you keep the funder informed about your use of the money.
7. .... that diversify their student body. Although there is resistance on the part of some leaders and alumni to diversification, there's no other choice given increased access for African Americans at majority institutions and the growing Asian and Latino populations. Thriving, in most cases, depends on aggressively reaching out to all students.
8. .... with leaders who remember to respect faculty and faculty input. Happy faculty = happy students.
9. .... that improve student services and the treatment of students as they move through the various student services venues on campus. Satisfied students make happy alumni that give back to the institution.
10. .... with leaders that roll up their sleeves and work with all entities on campus. HBCU presidents cannot afford to get caught up in titles and the trappings of these titles -- actually no president should.
11. .... that choose leaders with diverse experiences and perspectives. These leaders need to be chosen because they bring strength to the institution, not merely because they have worked at HBCUs in the past. Safe leaders don't move institutions to forward -- bold leaders do.
12. .... that take alumni giving seriously and fully engage their alumni on all levels.
13. .... that learn to cultivate the media at all levels, telling their institutional story regularly.
14. .... with presidents that get excited about fundraising and work as a team with their fundraising staff.
15. .... those HBCUs that honor their roots by reaching out to the surrounding community, uplifting it and measuring their interaction and contributions to it.