Dear Howard University Community:

As many of you know, far too often critics question the relevancy and value of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to contemporary society. An interrogative that I believe is completely misguided. What is more troubling is the fact that many of these criticisms are not supported by data, or even worse, by citing data that is misconstrued.

Unfortunately, these criticisms exist even though it is well documented that HBCUs play a significant role in fostering the academic success of students of color in obtaining bachelor’s and graduate degrees in STEM disciplines. HBCUs also have a strong history of making significant contributions to the racial diversity in professional fields including, but not limited to, law, politics, business and medicine.

What is often overlooked by critics is the significant role HBCUs have played in developing individuals who are civically engaged and the role HBCUs have played in encouraging student participation on issues related to social justice. One of the many advantages HBCUs have in fostering civic engagement among their students is their strong history of serving as incubators of civil rights activity.

Despite the fact that HBCUs account for only 4 percent of higher education institutions in the U.S., we are responsible for 22 percent of bachelor degrees awarded to African Americans in the U.S. This outsized impact is even more prevalent in the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), where HBCUs are responsible for 34 percent of these degrees awarded to African- American students. The impact of Howard University alone is monumental in this regard. Over the past decade, according to data from the National Scientific Foundation, Howard University sent more African-American students to doctorate programs in STEM disciplines than any other institution in the country.

Additionally, Howard University sent 220 students over that same period compared to 222 that were sent from Stanford, MIT, Harvard and Yale combined. We send more African-American students to medical school than any other institution in the country. This is no small feat when you consider that fewer African American males applied to medical school in 2016 than in 1976. Despite the level of financial difficulties, our students represent the best of any higher education student in the United States, and we proudly have the most dedicated faculty leading them.

It remains our responsibility to infiltrate the media, our families and our communities with information that highlight the successes of and necessity of HBCUs. The challenge is in the moment. THE TIME IS ALWAYS NOW.

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