Tennessee’s historically Black colleges and universities will soon have a team of advocates and an executive director in the state’s capital of Nashville.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s signing of the new Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities officially created an office within the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to represent those institutions.

“Governor Bill Haslam’s signing of the HBCU initiative is an historic moment for the State of Tennessee and speaks to his ongoing commitment to higher education,” Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover said in a statement. “Funding this legislation sends a clear message on the important role Tennessee State University and the other historically Black colleges and universities play in serving thousands of families, and our global impact.”

Under the law, Tennessee officials seek to increase the participation of HBCUs in state programs, while also “fostering enduring private-sector initiatives and public-private partnership” to “improve academic research and improve programmatic excellence throughout all HBCUs.”

The law also calls for improvements in communications with HBCUs so that they are able to “inform public policy and practice” and in general strengthen the relationship between HBCUs and their lawmakers.

Senators Reginald Tate (D-Shelby) and Rep. Harold Love, Jr. (D- Nashville) championed the law, and its signing concludes a fight they kicked off earlier this year.

Love said in a statement that the law is the first of its kind, and sends a message directly from the state that “we’re concerned about all HBCUs.”

“Now the state will be focusing on increasing graduation rates, enrollment rates and retention rates” at all seven of the state’s HBCUs, Love said.

In addition to Tennessee State University, the state’s other HBCUs include American Baptist College, Fisk University, Knoxville College, Lane College, Lemoyne-Owen College, and Meharry Medical College, which has been educating healthcare professionals since 1876.

The legislation passed both the state House and the Senate without a single vote in opposition; state Rep. David Alexander (R-Winchester) was present, but abstained from the vote.

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer