The NCLBC shall exercise unified political power for the betterment of people of color and consequently, all North Carolinians.

Lawmakers, students want parity funding for HBCUs in NC

May 15th, 2019

— Black lawmakers pushed Wednesday for expanded funding for North Carolina’s historically black colleges and universities, which they say continue to play a vital role in the state’s economy.

“Students in our state deserve to have access to options for education, higher education, that includes our HBCUs, and for our HBCUs to be sustained, they need to have adequate funding,” Sen. Erica Smith. D-Northampton, said at a news conference.

There are 10 HBCUs in North Carolina – the most in any state – including five in the University of North Carolina system: North Carolina Central University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina AT State University, Winston-Salem State University and Elizabeth City State University.

Those schools are responsible for $1.7 billion in annual economic impact on the state, employ 15,500 people and educate 32,800 students, producing about one-third of the science, technology and math degrees among blacks nationwide, Smith and others said.

“ECSU and all HBCUs give a student a chance to succeed and should be funded equally, due to their contributions,” said Eyricka Johnson, a senior at Elizabeth City State.

Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, noted that each UNC campus that has a doctoral-level research program is supposed to get an extra $10 million a year for faculty and equipment, but N.C. AT gets only $2.5 million – and even that has been a recent improvement. Republican leadership has promised to include another $7.5 million in this year’s state budget, she said, but the inequity shouldn’t have existed for so long.

“This is not about HBCUs versus non-HBCUs. This is about equity, and this is about parity,” said Rep. Raymond Smith Jr., D-Wayne.

Smith fought during the debate over the House budget to shift some of the $100 million earmarked for agricultural research and cooperative extension at North Carolina State University to N.C. AT, which he said got nothing, even though the two land-grant universities have a similar focus.

“We have major disparity in funding between our HBCUs and our other UNC system constituent schools,” he said. “I think it’s time we have this conversation. I’m all about sitting down at the table and working with anyone who is interested in creating parity.”

Sen. Smith said N.C. AT focuses on smaller farmers, which N.C. State works with larger farms, so each is important.

“We’re not just asking for more money because we want it,” she said. “We’re asking for this because it is necessary and it is the right thing to do.”

The lawmakers are backing Senate Bill 667, which would give each of the five HBCUs in the UNC system an extra $10 million a year to make up for funding disparities.

Xavier Jones, an N.C. Central graduate student, said the money could help with expanding housing, lowering student fees and upgrading campus infrastructure.

Jones said a housing shortage forced him to move off campus his junior year, and finding parking became a daily chore that he had to juggle with his classes.

Henry Lancaster, who works with an HBCU fundraising effort, said most infrastructure on these campuses is 60 to 70 years old. Not only do aging buildings, electrical and HVAC systems waste money and need repeated repairs, it makes recruiting the best students more difficult, he said.

“It is difficult to attract students in an environment that is not in the 21st century,” Lancaster said.

Another priority for HBCUs is getting a Teaching Fellows program. The state scholarship program for training future teachers operates in five schools, including three in the UNC system, but none is an HBCU.

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