Note: The following guest blog was written by George M. Johnson, an advocate for change in Higher Education in the African American Community. He is the Former Director of Student Accounts at Virginia Union University and counsels students on proper preparation for college. He has been published on www.hbcudigest.com and www.theedadvocate.org. Follow him on twitter @iamgmjohnson.
Black lawmakers in North Carolina were recently angered by a proposed Senate budget provision. The provision stated that "the UNC Board of Governors shall study closing any institution that has seen its enrollment decline more than 20 percent between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2013". The only school that fell into this category happened to be Elizabeth City State University, a historically black college which resides in one of the poorest parts of North Carolina.
News of this made headlines, essentially sending Twitter into an uproar with the hashtag #saveourHBCUS and #saveECSU. This led to an online petition to the state, asking for them to reconsider this action being taken. Statements ranged from "HBCU's are still relevant" to "if it had not been for an HBCU, I would not have been able to get a college education". Emotionally charged alumni, students and fellow colleges stood in solidarity in fear of losing another Historically Black University.
A sigh of relief came days later when the Senate voted unanimously to remove the budget provision that could have shut down ECSU. At best, this moment could be described as bittersweet. ECSU will continue to do the great work in providing an education to the students of the North Carolina community. The problem is that these same "Hashtag Activists" may have won the battle, but lend no support to the war that still lies ahead for the college.
The war you ask? Social media activists and advocates must come to the realization that simply spreading the word is not enough. Keeping any school open that continually suffers enrollment problems is problematic regardless of HBCU or PWI. Many of the same people who initially spread the message about saving the university have simply gone back to their day to day routines as if all is well. Unfortunately, all is not well for ECSU. There are simply too many people that "say" and not enough people that "do" when it comes to preventing this problem from happening again in the near future.
FACT: ECSU's being an HBCU is not the problem their enrollment issues are.
FACT: College enrollment has declined nationwide over the past few years.
FACT: It will take more than #saveourHBCUS to actually save our HBCU's.
The issue of enrollment across the nation has been a problem with no solution in sight. Even as the economy seems to be back on the upswing financially, college enrollment numbers continue to decrease at a steady rate. The factors that cause this include; consistent increase in tuition rates, lack of federal funding, mismanagement of funds, changes to parent plus loan credit rules, and the rise in enrollment in non 4 year institutions. Let's face it, without enrollment, no college can continue to keep its doors open. This has been proven with the recent failed attempts at St. Paul's College and Morris Brown to name a few. The fact that these schools are HBCU's was never the main reason for their closures. The shift in focus needs to be taken off history and tradition and placed on solutions to the actual problem with enrollment.
So what happens next?
Unfortunately, this victory will more than likely be a short lived one. Most concerns about the situation were placed on the wrong issue. If HBCU's plan on being around, then they must begin to actually look at the problems facing them in the near future. People must realize that bringing awareness to a problem is not a substitute for taking action. We are quickly becoming a culture more concerned with the amount of "likes" we get for participating in the "cause" rather than actually finding a solution for it.
The call to save our HBCU's is a noble one. As an HBCU alum, I encourage more to participate in keeping the doors open at our illustrious institutions. Although social media is a great platform to get the message to the masses, it is going to take more than a tweet or a post to find a solution. #time #to #close #the #apps #and #take #action!
Follow Matthew Lynch, Ed.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lynch39083