Historically black schools appeal to McCrory for assistance - WNCN: News, Weather

Historically black schools appeal to McCrory for assistance

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HBCU is appealing to Gov. Pat McCrory for financial support to aid in improving infrastructure and financial aid for students at the state's 11 historically black colleges and universities. HBCU is appealing to Gov. Pat McCrory for financial support to aid in improving infrastructure and financial aid for students at the state's 11 historically black colleges and universities.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

HBCU is appealing to Gov. Pat McCrory for financial support to aid in improving infrastructure and financial aid for students at the state's 11 historically black colleges and universities.

The three-page letter was signed by Fayetteville State University Chancellor James Anderson on behalf of 11 HBCUs in North Carolina, including Shaw University and St. Augustine's University in downtown Raleigh.

The letter points out the historical benefits of higher education for black students and other underrepresented groups. It also cites problems with changes in federal financial aid policies, state funding cuts, outdated infrastructure, and a lack of scholarship support.

"I think what was outlined in the letter pretty much detailed a lot of the same concerns that most HBCUs have," explained St. Aug's spokeswoman Shelley Willingham-Hinton. "Traditionally we have been schools that provide access as well as competitive education for all citizens, but especially African Americans and other underrepresented groups. So it's very difficult, with the recent state and federal cuts in funding, to help us bridge the gap … that our students face when trying to finance their education."

The letter says the schools are working on a plan to deal with the issues. McCrory had asked the schools to put together a plan following a meeting with school leaders earlier this year.

"We hope that with this letter and with the consolidations of all the HBCUs in the state coming together to work on a strategic plan, that at least we can bring these issues to [McCrory's] awareness, because maybe he did not know," Willingham-Hinton said.

Among the issues outlined in the letter, Anderson pointed out that taxpayer money cannot be used for marketing purposes at UNC System schools. However, because many of the UNC System's schools have larger, unrestricted sources, HBCUs in the state have difficult competing with other campuses in marketing to "underrepresented groups."

Because most of the HBCUs in the state began as teaching colleges, Anderson explained that alumni giving rates are traditionally lower because graduates "entered a profession that is greatly needed but not highly paid."

"With low alumni giving rates, the campuses are unable to grow their endowments at the same rate as other campuses," Anderson wrote in the letter. "This limits funds available to offer and counter-offer scholarships."

Willingham-Hinton said that one of St. Aug's primary concerns is students who have the grades to graduate, but may not have the money to afford tuition.

"I think primarily for St. Augustine's University, it is that gap that students find with scholarships, or not being able to get the Pell Grants, or their parents not qualifying for the PLUS loans," Willingham-Hinton said. "Right now we're working with alumni and trying to find creative strategies with our development department ... to help bridge that gap to make sure that funding is not an issue for students wanting to attend schools.

"We're very focused on making sure that we do still provide that access that HBCUs are historically known for."

The letter says the schools have an impact of about $1.4 billion and employ about 19,000 people. North Carolina has the largest block of historically black colleges and universities in the country.
    
About 221,000 students attend the schools in North Carolina.

Ryan Tronovitch with McCrory's office says the schools play a big role in the state's future workforce.
    
"Gov. McCrory looks forward to working with the presidents and chancellors of North Carolina's historically black colleges and universities and hearing their input on important education issues," Tronovitch said.

The schools' chancellors and presidents thanked McCrory for meeting with them earlier this month, but hope they can now come up with a plan for assistance.

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