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Yesterday, I was helping an alumnus of a Black college with his resume.  While we were working to identify his strengths and outline his education, I inquired about how long it took him to graduate.  He said 7 years.  I asked, “Why” and his response was “because I had to take time off to work.  I couldn’t afford to go straight through.”

My friend’s story is typical of Black college students.  They tend to be first generation and from low-income families and they tend to take longer to graduate.  Of course there are many exceptions, but the typical student at an HBCU struggles to pay tuition.  Why is this an important topic to discuss?  Because socio-economic status is the top predictor of degree attainment; the more affluent a student’s family is the more likely he or she is to graduate.

Having access to scholarships to support one’s education is one of the main keys to success at any college, but especially at an HBCU.  This is an area in which alumni can play an enormous role.  Almost all HBCU students have benefited from some type of scholarship and aid while a student and in an effort to pay their experiences forward, these students (now alumni) should contribute to scholarship funds at their alma mater.

Alumni can contribute to existing scholarship funds or if they have the means, they can create their own scholarship fund with specific guidelines that fit their interests and principles.  Moreover, if alumni pool their monies together they can endow several scholarships, benefiting even more students.  In addition to the sense of accomplishment and purpose that giving brings to the giver, he or she will also get to meet the students that receive the scholarship(s).  Helping another individual to gain an education is wonderfully rewarding.

Alumni of HBCUs (as well as the rest of us) have an obligation to ensure that the next generation of African American students can reach its goals.  This is not only good for African American individuals, Black families, and Black communities but it benefits society at large by demonstrating the intellectual capacity and ability of African Americans.

Give HOPE. Live HOPE.

Dr. Marybeth Gasman
Guest Blogger

About the Author

Dr. Marybeth Gasman, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, editor of “Understanding Minority-Serving Institutions,” and leading expert on leadership, fundraising and alumni relations at historically black colleges and universities. Dr. Gasman is the author of  Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund.

Michelle Nealy, assistant director of The H.O.P.E. Scholarship profiled Dr. Gasman in an article for Diverse Issues In Higher Education. Check it out! HERE.

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