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HBCU vs. PWI: A debate that needs to end

(getty images)

(getty images)

Kyla Wright | Contributing Writer

There used to be a time where African Americans were praised for attending college, no matter what university they chose. There is already pressure to choose the right major and being able to pay for school, but now choosing an HBCU or a PWI is added to the list. Simply attending college should be an accomplishment on its own; however, the never-ending debates on Twitter beg to differ. According to USA Today, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are defined as post-secondary schools that were established and accredited before 1964 and whose principal mission was and is the education of African-Americans.

Predominately White Institutions (PWIs), on the other hand, are defined as schools of higher learning in which whites account for at least 50% enrollment. The big “debate” is based on which type of institution is better for the African American student.

“People who talk down on HBCU’s sound ignorant because they wouldn’t be able to get a higher education if it wasn’t for HBCU’s,” said Peyton Hundley, a biology pre-med major from Charlotte, North Carolina. According to the NY Daily News, prior to the Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954, HBCU’s existed as federal inventions to offer black students opportunities to learn a basic skill or a trade. These institutions have now flourished with a plethora of undergraduate and graduate programs, some being the best in the country. It is hard to believe that institutions that have many benefits like Hampton University are known as the “Standard of Excellence,” yet are still considered limited because it is an HBCU.

Many students opt for black colleges because they attended predominantly white secondary schools, dealt with racism and discrimination and did not want to be subject to this mistreatment for their undergraduate education.

This past year, students of color at the University of Missouri, a known PWI, protested the racism experienced on the campus. The protests sparked conversations of understanding and opposition. Though there were many jokes and posts on Twitter and it is unlikely that the racism would have occurred at an HBCU, this does not mean that these students deserved this harassment. The message should have been one of encouragement and not that HBCU students should have been acting against them. Hampton University students stood in solidarity with the students at the University of Missouri a #HU4MIZZOU campaign.

“If you want to see what it’s like not living in the culture you may have grown up in , go for a PWI!,” said Cydney Rodgers, an athletic training major at the University of Michigan from Detroit. One benefit of PWIs is that they show students of color a more realistic picture of what the world and many of their future workplaces will look like compared to an HBCU. In addition, PWIs get a substantial amount of funding compared to HBCU’s. According to Essence Magazine, if the endowments of all 105 HBCU’s were added up, they’d still amount to less than 10% of Harvard University’s endowment, which at upward of $30 billion is the wealthiest of any college in the world.

On the other hand, many African American students steer away from PWI’s because they do not want to just be another number struggling to be seen and heard. Many African American students at PWIs took to Twitter during the University of Missouri incident with the trending topic, “#BlackOnCampus,” giving examples of issues they have had with being Black at a predominantly white school. A post from @novxvi on Twitter says, “Having to act like [stuff] doesn’t happen because you don’t want to be seen as that black student always ‘pulling the race card’ #BlackOnCampus.”

Whether you attend an HBCU or a PWI, be a part of the 42 percent of blacks that graduate from college and also help future college students do the same. College is difficult; there will be pros and cons to the institution of your choice and not every day will be enjoyable. The truth is, college is what you make it. It is up to the individual if they would like a more cultured experience with students who look like them and not anyone else’s decision. If a student would rather a campus with a wide variety of students then that’s their choice as well. At the end of the day, it is your college experience and it is about what you want – meaning that other people’s opinions are insignificant. Remember to praise your peers for getting into college instead of criticizing them on which one they go to; that should be the least of your concern.

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