By Maria Thompson, Special to the AFRO

As we all know, HBCUs were established because of segregation and a lack of adequate higher learning opportunities for African Americans.  But what most Americans don’t know or consider is that today, HBCUs continue to fill a major void in our nation’s higher education landscape.

All education takes place from a specific viewpoint or perspective. In this country, most colleges and universities offer an educational experience from the European American perspective.  HBCUs offer an educational opportunity borne of the African American experience, making our colleges and universities unique assets that are critical to preparing citizens with necessary knowledge and skills to advance their communities and the nation through the lens of this important American perspective.

I urge everyone to read the 2017 United Negro College Fund report that details the impressive contributions and impact of HBCUs.

Although there are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the US, approximately 100 HBCUs produce:

  • 20% of African American students who complete bachelor’s degrees;
  • 24% of degrees earned by African American students in STEM fields;
  • More than 50% of the nation’s African American teachers earned their degrees at an HBC

These and other data points show the high productivity level of HBCUs that cannot be ignored or allowed to falter. And I urge congress to increase the country’s investments in our HBCUs.

More importantly, I encourage all of those who support our institutions to do two things:

1) Vote in local, state and national elections for individuals who are willing to pursue support of HBCUs with increasing financial investments, and

2) Contact your legislators to voice your support of HBCUs.

We can’t solidify the place of HBCUs in this country unless we all work together—as a collective—to ensure their foundation and success.

Dr. Maria Thompson is the president of Coppin State University. The following article is a condensed and lightly edited version of a speech she gave at HBCU Day of Action April 17 in Washington, D.C.