Education leaders seek more funding for Black community colleges

by Mark Richardson
Illinois News Connection
Chicago - Historical and predominantly Black community colleges often get overlooked when it comes to funding for higher education. However, leaders nationwide are seeking ways to improve support for these institutions.

Complete College of America and Lumina Foundation organized a webinar recently to discuss the needs of these colleges and their crucial role in promoting equal opportunities for Black students.

Brandon Nichols, senior vice president for academic affairs at Olive-Harvey College, a historically Black community college, emphasized the need for funding to provide wraparound services to under-resourced students.

"One of the things that we noticed was the food insecurities," he said. "So we actually have a pantry that is now on site for our students to have access to. And we know that our students come to school hungry, may not have had the resources or access to be able to go to the grocery store that impacts the level of success in the classroom."

Olive-Harvey College is part of the Chicago State University system, with more than 7,000 students enrolled in scientific, technical and liberal-arts courses. Nichols said because it is the only group of Historically Black Colleges in Illinois, they feel a special responsibility to offer support to their students.

Nichols pointed out that funding is crucial in supporting what he calls the school's "stranded workforce" - individuals striving for a degree but held back by financial obstacles or other responsibilities. He said a majority of students come from a low-income background, which makes college necessities such as books, laptops, child care and even food sometimes hard to afford.

"We want to make sure that we give our students the resources they need to be the most successful," he said. "Next aspect is that we want to make sure that our students and our community also reflect the faculty that we have that are teaching our courses. We're very intentional to ensure that we have faculty that reflect our students."

Advocates from other states also highlighted the essential resources that historically Black colleges offer to support first-generation students and emphasize the need for impactful research that reflects their community influence.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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