• August 29, 2015

Duncan Challenges Black Colleges to Improve Teacher Training and Graduation Rates

Education Secretary Arne Duncan reaffirmed on Thursday the White House's commitment to helping historically black colleges survive and thrive into the future, but in a speech here he urged the institutions to improve their teacher-training programs and graduation rates.

Mr. Duncan made his remarks to several hundred leaders and staff and faculty members of black colleges who were attending a symposium on historically black colleges at North Carolina Central University, which is celebrating its centennial year.

The secretary said the administration of President Obama is giving black colleges unprecedented levels of attention and support in an effort to strengthen their financial condition. Administration officials spoke at the graduation ceremonies this spring of more than a dozen black colleges, including Hampton University, in Virginia, where the president addressed graduating students.

Through the White House initiative on historically black colleges, the administration is also trying to "shift the narrative" in the philanthropic sector, Mr. Duncan said, by promoting donations to the institutions as an investment in the future rather than an appeal based only on need.

He also touted the administration's efforts to increase money for the Pell Grant program and to provide technical assistance to black colleges to help them distribute federally backed student loans.

Minority-serving institutions, such as the nation's 105 historically black colleges, are crucial to helping reach Mr. Obama's goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020, Mr. Duncan said.

But in order to attain that mark, black colleges must improve their graduation rates over all and must focus, especially, on improving their teacher-training programs, the secretary said: "It's no secret that I have sometimes been critical of teacher-preparation programs."

He urged the leaders to use data on student performance to evaluate which programs are succeeding, saying the data are not something to be feared but to be used constructively.

Earl S. Richardson, president of Morgan State University, in Baltimore, was one of two college presidents chosen to respond to the secretary's speech. He said that in addition to the many other challenges black colleges face, the amount of state and federal money that supports them is still not on par with the amounts that non-minority-serving colleges receive.

"This is not about special opportunities for black institutions," he said. "It's about carrying them to parity."


1. hlsimmons - June 03, 2010 at 07:24 pm


Dr. Richardson is right on the mark when he said "in addition to many other challenges black colleges face," they should be carried "to parity." Without parity, almost all of HBCUs will stand rather defenseless without the needed financial wherewithal. I taught at Morgan and directed a PhD in higher education and no agency would give us a penny to conquer that which was conquerable. We were given what we needed to graduate two dozen or more students in five years! You had the right person to respond.

2. studentsuccess10 - June 03, 2010 at 08:09 pm

How does attending a HBCU help students to succeed in the world today? I expect that this question is asked by many potential financial contributors. Segregation of one kind or another may not be the answer for any of us.

3. princeton67 - June 03, 2010 at 08:16 pm

Four observations:
(1) Once again, "minority" morphs into "black". Brandeis and Yeshiva have no problem with their minority (Jewish) graduation and achievement
rates. Ditto for BYU (Mormon), Wellesley (women), the UCal system (Asian), or Hawaii (Polynesian)
(2) Once again, the angst is not about "minorities" but about academically underachieving (with respect to demographic percentages) minorities.
(3) I taught for thirty years in several systems in Georgia.
(a) the best black candidates came from Emory, UGa, GaSt, GaTech - schools attended by all cultures/races/ethnicities.
(b) minimally qualified (BA + teacher certification test passed) were always hired - to satisfy "diversity" requirements.
(4) That I was the first, and possibly the only, Jew many residents of Douglas, Georgia had ever met meant nothing. Wrong minority: overachieving.

4. juanitamwoods - June 03, 2010 at 11:23 pm

From the Virgin Islands (smile) to HLSimmons...you couldn't have said it better and I agree with princeton67 in that the term "minority" needs to be reassessed because in addition to those groups mentioned, there are also institutions who primarily serve Native Americans and hispanics many of which are woefully underfunded.

5. jamccain - June 04, 2010 at 11:20 am

To StudentSuccess10:"How does attending a HBCU help students to succeed in the world today? I expect that this question is asked by many potential financial contributors. Segregation of one kind or another may not be the answer for any of us."

I am a student at an HBCU and some of the ways that NCAT (Greensboro) prepare their students to succeed in today's world are:
1) All beginning/new students must enroll in the Academic College Success course. I personally found this course very helpful in my success academically and socially (improve social networking skills tremendously).

2) They also have cohort network groups that students can join. I found that most of our students (95% out of 100%) succeeded academically and graduated from their programs of study.

Now as far as segregation goes, I felt extremely comfortable at NCAT (an HBCU). I did not have to be concerned about discrimination and racism by NCAT faculty/staff or the students. It was a very peaceful environment. I received everything from NCAT that I would have receive at a "majority" institution minus the racial discrimination and other inequities that are so evident at majority white educational institutions.

The professors at NCAT are very intelligent and capable of preparing their students for the modern world. Yes, HBCUs are underfunded;however, many HBCUs are exceptional educational institutions and deserve financial support. I believe that "all" educational institutions need to improve on staff training and development. Educational institutions are responsible for improving "retention rates" but I believe that the students should also be held accountable for staying in college and pursuing their educational goals. All the African Americans that I know who have gradutated from HBCUs are leading successful lives, have promising careers, and are making a real difference in their communities.

6. drmenyweather - June 05, 2010 at 02:46 pm

There has been a saying, "a little learning is a dangerous thing" and reading the comments of the Education Secretary and some of the comments brings this idiom to a new height. The history of HBCUs has been continously under estimated and often critics who have made statements, e.g., . . . Segregation of one kind or another may not be the answer for any of us, reveals the lack of a historical consciousness which has either been revised. or the person who makes such statement lacks knowledge. It would appear the Education Department, this administration as well as Presidential administrations before, have not done all to make the "American Dream" for all as promised by the forebearers. This is not a matter of minority over or under achievement, this is a matter of allowing real truth to rise from the ashes. Maybe its time for the people who won a battle without shoes to once again demonstrate to others the tree from which we have come.

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