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COVID-19 Closures Could Hit Historically Black Colleges Particularly Hard

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As the COVID-19 crisis forces many schools to close their campuses and move all courses online, some worry that the pandemic could have a bigger negative impact on the nation’s historically black colleges and universities, than for other campuses. Here, The Conversation US has assembled a panel of experts to forecast what’s in store for HBCUs.

How is the outbreak is affecting HBCUs?

Marybeth Gasman, professor of education at Rutgers University: I am worried about the technology demands on HBCUs, given how few IT specialists many smaller HBCUs have as well as the costs of managing online classes. I’m also worried about students not having access to Wi-Fi at home or laptops – 75% of HBCU students are eligible for Pell Grants for students from low- to middle-income families. I’m happy to see some HBCUs – Paul Quinn College, in Dallas, Texas, for example – lending students laptops for the rest of the semester.

HBCUs rely a lot on tuition and have smaller endowments than other schools. If these HBCUs get into financial trouble, they risk losing their accreditation since financial stability is one part of what it takes to remain accredited. Without accreditation, it is nearly impossible to recruit students.

Ivory Toldson, professor of counseling psychology at Howard University: In 2008, during the Great Recession, The New York Times published an article that mentioned an old saying: “When America catches a cold, African-Americans catch the flu.” This applies to HBCUs. Disruptions in enrollment and fundraising efforts, as well as closed dorms, prorated rebates, and lost revenue from food services and university bookstores will short-circuit normal streams of revenue for all universities. But HBCUs might see worse effects because they have less money to begin with.

Read full story by Ivory A. Toldson,Howard University;Gregory N. Price,University of New Orleans, and Marybeth Gasman,Rutgers University