Questions are being raised about the relevance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and if they are needed. As a proud graduate of America’s oldest HBCU, The Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, the answer is a resounding yes.
One argument against HBCU’s is that they lack diversity. That couldn’t be further from the truth. According to a 2016 report from the Post Secondary National Policy Institute, HBCU student bodies have become more racially diverse than 20 years ago. Non-black students made up 19% of enrollment. Still, the majority of students (76%) served by HBCUs are African Americans.
During my time at Lincoln, I interacted and attended classes with students from varying backgrounds and nationalities. Diversity at HBCU’s also extends beyond racial and ethnic categories. Currently, Lincoln has students from 31 states and 28 countries.
I also had the unique experience of attending Temple University for a year to take journalism classes. The partnership between Temple and Lincoln allowed me to further diversify my journalism skill sets while having the benefit of allowing me to juxtapose my experience at the two institutions. Both schools challenged me in their own way.
Attending Lincoln has played a significant role during my career growth as an intercollegiate athletics communicator and sportswriter. Lincoln instilled in me that solid foundation of a strong work ethic, passion, preparation, attitude, and effort. In addition to offering a safe space for my personal development, attending Lincoln provided intentional, intrusive, and focused resources dedicated to my academic success and mental well-being.
While being part of the Lincoln family was wonderful, knowing that I shared a bond with students at other HBCU’s was special. HBCU’s expose students to experiences that can’t be imitated. I was empowered to think on my own about complex issues involving the theory and development of novels, Shakespearian themes, and business writing.
I was challenged outside of my comfort zone by nurturing professors, demanding mentors and supportive peers. The school’s small and intimate environment was perfect for me to blossom. Through my involvement as a student leader, admissions ambassador and resident advisor, I impacted not only my campus, but the community and future generations of potential Lincoln students.
I learned the nuances of how to conduct a peaceful protest when we shut the campus down for two days. A few years later, I was part of a group of Lincoln students that rode three buses to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Million Man March. Still easily one of the highlights of my life.
More importantly as an aspiring sports reporter, Lincoln was perfect for me to make a difference on campus and quietly build a quality portfolio of newspaper clips as sports editor of the Lincolnian student newspaper. I saw a need for a brief daily sports report on our student radio station and I filled a void.
When I got my internship with the Philadelphia Inquirer, during the year I attended Temple, I was more than ready because of all of the experience and confidence I gained while being able to write openly at Lincoln.
Financial resources aren’t always ideal for HBCU’s and aren’t just limited to these specific schools. Across the country institutions of higher learning are losing subsidies from federal and state sources, which has resulted in tightened spending, increased tuition and fees and more fundraising creativity.
For example, in Pennsylvania, the cost to attend one of the 14 State System Institutions of Higher Education rose by 2.5 percent. Data released in 2015 by the College Board show that Pennsylvania’s public universities remain the third-most expensive in the nation. Their average in-state tuition and fees at $13,395 for 2015-16 were surpassed only by New Hampshire at $15,160 and Vermont at $14,993, according to the College Board data.
These numbers affected 18 institutions in the state, with two being HBCU’s (Lincoln and Cheyney).
Everything that I have accomplished during my life, I owe to Lincoln, because it had a transformative impact on me. I am sure many of my classmates and HBCU alums can attest to that with pride.
People have real questions. Hopefully, this can continue a dialogue to afford individuals an opportunity to see more than one-dimensional, uninformed narratives.
To me, this was the perfect time to speak out and let the world know how Lincoln impacted my life. I am hopeful of creating an inspirational and motivational narrative for future generations and repel the stereotype that HBCU’s are no longer relevant.
Rob Knox is currently the Associate Director of Media Relations at Towson University and the CoSIDA second vice president. An award-winning communications professional, Knox has over 15 years of experience in several sectors of the media including sports information, newspapers and television. A member of The Lincoln University of Pennsylvania Athletics Hall of Fame, graduate of the NCAA Leadership Institute and 2011 CoSIDA Rising Star Award winner, Knox is one of the most influential, passionate and accomplished athletic communications professionals in the country.