More Physicists, Fewer Fullbacks: Project 21’s Robinson Commentary in The Root Sets a New Mission for Black Colleges

This week, the White House is focusing attention on historically-black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with an official week of commemoration and a conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.

Project 21 member B.B. Robinson, Ph.D. is marking the week by calling on HBCUs to commit more resources to train students in science and technology to meet the growing demand in those fields. This, Robinson believes, will help foster further black prosperity and help equalize employment opportunities.

Since this will obviously drain tight budgets, Robinson offers a suggestion: HBCUs should cut back their athletic programs.

In his commentary on the subject, which was published by The Root – a black-focused web site jointly operated by The Washington Post and Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. of Harvard University – Robinson wrote:

Among black students in particular, there is a distinct technological training deficit. According to Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 from the federal National Science Board, only 8.4 percent of college graduates in 2005 who received degrees in science and engineering were black.

There has been a slow and steady increase of black science and engineering graduates over the surveyed period of 1985 to 2005, but this black progress was nonetheless outpaced by Hispanic and Asian gains.

Compounding the problem of so few blacks receiving science and engineering degrees is that a consistent rate of over 30 percent of incoming black freshmen over the years regularly intend on pursuing such majors while less than a third actually obtain a degree…

Given that their budgets and access to resources are limited, how can HBCUs increase their science and technology focus? They should not “Rob Peter to pay Paul.” They should simply take “Peter” out of the equation. The HBCUs’ Peter is money-losing athletic programs.

HBCUs should consider converting resources set aside for athletic programs into resources for scientific research and development…

For the future of black America, HBCUs and the nation, it seems appropriate that HBCUs turn their athletic and competitive swords and spears into productive and scientific plowshares and pruning hooks.

To read the full Robinson commentary, click here.

This post was written by National Center for Public Policy Research Executive Director David Almasi. To send comments to the author, write him at [email protected]. Please state if a letter is not for publication or if you prefer that it be published anonymously.

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