Acknowledging the Significance of HBCUs

Thursday, February 08, 2024
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As a Historically Black College, Texas College honors and recognizes the contributions of Black individuals for their preceding and continuous monumental work and achievements that have paved the way for current and future generations. This circadian reverence for the aforementioned remains engrained into the campus of Texas College, standing on the shoulders of giants that have made Texas College what it is today.

With the annual opportunity to celebrate the month-long acknowledgement that is Black History Month, Texas College asserts that the observance remains meaningful and important, as it provides monumental context of the contributions of a people who were once considered disenfranchised. It further showcases, both historically and factually, how Blacks and other ethnicities were interwoven into the foundation of America’s beginnings and continuity. And, although there were historical moments of struggle that were both challenging and concerning, such struggles are now accountable to the formation of a resilient nation with successes that make up the fabric of a powerful national society. One should be reminded that many historical incidents that have occurred cannot be changed, but one should also be admonished to remembering that such events have led to contemporary strengths and weaknesses and they should not be relived.

In recognition of Black History Month, you are invited to pause for a moment and reflect on the development of institutions that for more than a century have influenced the growth and development of a people. In this regard, briefly learn of the importance of these institutions now proudly referred to as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The designation of HBCUs grew out of the desire of a people who wanted to learn and grow both academically and vocationally, for the purpose of a better life. And, in many instances, there were efforts to thwart this from occurring by way of Jim Crow Laws, threats, and practices of discouragement. One may also know that the formation of Historically Black Colleges and Universities were not officially recognized by the federal government until 1964, as the nation assisted with a definition to recognize that at that moment such institutions (many without federal support) could be established to provide an education for Blacks. To date, there remains approximately 100 institutions (both public and private) with this designation of HBCU that serve students of all races.

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Map of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (

Texas College, an HBCU in Tyler, Texas, proudly carries a rich history that sought to serve what was once an underreported population in East Texas, who desired to receive an education. The founding of Texas College by ministers from the once called Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (now the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church) invested time, energy, and resources to make alive and possible the dream of an education. With this as the founding ideal, a motto was shaped which now reads, “Give the People Light and They Will Find Their Way.” This motto stands as the mantra of the College, which has now stood in its founding location for 130 years; for more than a century.

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Texas College's first building in 1894


Now, today, the historical meaning of the founding of HBCUs often seems forgotten and less appreciative. To this end, it is advisable to keep the history of these institutions alive and resurrected. It is also proposed that the institutions' mission, core values, and vision are periodically shared with various publics so they will understand the importance of HBCUs' founding and history. Further, it is from the founding principles that the relevance of HBCUs is continually shared today. A brief recapitulation of the relevance of HBCUs in the modern era is provided in embracement of Black History Month.

To this end, in the 2021 “Economic Report of the President,” President Biden reported facts that are of significant importance for HBCUs. The report noted, “One example of higher education institutions delivering a high return for their students is that of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. HBCUs have played a crucial role in expanding educational opportunity for all students, especially African American students who make up 76% of their populations. As of 2019, there were 101 accredited HBCUs across the United States. HBCUs enroll over 300,000 students including around 80,000 non-African Americans (as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics 2020). According to a 2017, economic impact report produced by the United Negro College Fund, HBCUs generate an employment contribution of 134,000 jobs, work-life earnings of $130 billion for HBCU students, and a total economic contribution to the U.S. economy of $14.8 billion (page 389).”

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It was further noted that “although HBCUs account for a mere 10 percent of the African American college student population, in 2014 they represented 17 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 24 percent of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees earned by African Americans. And, from 2002 to 2011, the top eight institutions where African Americans earned PHDs in science and engineering were HBCUs (page 390).” Additionally, it was noted that, “Although non-HBCU graduates initially benefit, on average, from higher incomes than do HBCU students, [the data shows] that HBCU graduates tend on average to experience greater annual growth in income than non-HBCU graduates. Thus, over the long run, alumni of HBCUs will tend to experience rates of return comparable to those for non-HBCU alumni. This shows that from a productivity standpoint, HBCUs can deliver comparable returns at a lower cost.”

So, as one reflects on the month of February, you are encouraged to do so with thoughts about HBCUs as institutions that have and continue to do so much, for so many, and for so long, for such a time as this.