The Gap Between HBCU And PWI: the Need for Proper Funding

May 3, 2023
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The Gap Between HBCU And PWI: the Need for Proper Funding essay
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Whether it’s via social media or a discussion amongst your peers, the conversation between PWIs and HBCUs always seems to turn into a battle when being discussed. The narrative being that HBCUs are in many ways inferior to their PWI counterparts. For those who do not know, a PWI is a predominately white institution, and an HBCU is a historically black college or university. This debate covers a wide range of claims and accusations; the chief among them being that the education received at an HBCU is inadequate to the one gained at a PWI.


The lack of funding that HBCUs receive in comparison to their majority white counterparts helps to further perpetuate this notion. In addition, students claim to have more issues receiving assistance with their educational needs from faculty and staff. Historically Black Colleges and Universities should not be considered less than Predominately White Institutions because of their disproportionate state funding, crumbling student support with infrastructure, and the conception of having a subpar education.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities were created to provide a post-secondary education to African Americans in a time when they were denied entrance to the established predominately white institutions. The first PWI, Harvard University, was established in 1636 and is still known as one of the most prestigious universities in the country to receive a degree from. The first HBCU would not be establish till over two centuries later in 1837, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania; but the first HBCU to have the ability to grant degrees did not come along until 1854 with the creation of Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. HBCUs were at a statistical disadvantage in the quality of education they could provide due to the delay in their establishment.

Many HBCUs had trouble starting as it was difficult to find white professors that were willing to teach at their institutions and black professors that had studied at PWIs were a rarity. This made it almost impossible for these colleges and universities to provide an education similar to their majority white counterparts. This struggle continued for almost 60 years until 1896 when The U.S. Supreme Court enforced a “separate but equal” stances after the Plessy v. Ferguson trial. This ruling would enforce that all businesses and establishments created for African Americans had to be equal to those provided for Caucasians; this included secondary education. This helped HBCUs to an extent, but they were still trying to catch up to PWIs that had a 300-year head start in providing degree-level education.

Secondary education from its notion was not without its monetary cost. Securing funding for a college or university directly impacts the quality of education those students will receive. State funding for HBCUs has been historically less in comparison to PWIs since states started providing funding to public secondary institutes. In 1973 an appeal to the Adams v. Richardson lawsuit; calling for the desegregation of higher education, ensured that those efforts would not be at the expense of HBCUs. In following 10 states were required to provide equal funding and programming to the HBCUs within their jurisdiction. However, in 2013 a report proved that those states in fact had not been giving those HBCUs equal funding and are penalized when they cannot match federal requirements.

This lack of funding prevents these colleges and universities from creating and maintaining accredited programs which would give them a competitive edge over their PWI counterparts. This disadvantage directly results in below average graduation rates and alarmingly low retention rates. Those two factors decrease the number of alumni who can support the institution with funding. In efforts to combat this shortfall, many HBCUs have had to raise their tuition rates and cut funding to certain programs within the institution, mainly athletics. All are actioning the deter students of any ethnicity from wanting to apply to a Historically Black College or University.

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There are over 100 HBCUs across the country, each different and unique in their own way and the experience of the students that attend them vary from institute to institute. However, if you ask an HBCU student what their biggest struggle is in their college experience you will find the answers boil down to one thing: infrastructure. The organizational structure of HBCUs has been below par for many years. This tends to be due in part to the staff employed their and sometimes the lack thereof. Going back to their conception it was hard to find staffing qualified to run and operate these historically black institutions. Those who were qualified were generally underpaid due to the universities lack of funding and sought employment elsewhere.

This trend is still seen today were the more qualified professors, administrators, and base employees would rather work for PWIs with more funding and opportunities. This is not to say that the staff at HBCUs are inadequate but rather that their PWI competitors tend to get first pick of the best candidates within their state and others. The effects of subpar staff have been more apparent in these recent years with stories surfacing about misdealing’s with student’s financial aid by staff to misuse of funds by university presidents. The added stress of dealing with crumbling infrastructure has made the learning and registration experience of most HBCU attendees more difficult playing further into the stigma.

From their conception till now, Historically Black Colleges and Universities have been at a strategic disadvantage to their white counterparts. They have been playing a losing game of catch up for almost 400 years now with seemingly no hope in sight. Their advancement has been delayed by hurdles; some created by the states they reside in by the lack of funding they receive, others by the lack of appeal to highly qualified staff, and the majority from starting behind the rest of the field. However, there is one fundamental solution to all these hurdles. One that will close the gap between HBCUs and PWIs and erase the stigma associated with these prestige’s Black Institutions. The answer is simple and plain, but it will take full cooperation of everyone involved. The outcome? A better experience for all who make the choice of attending a Historically Black College or University.

HBCU: the need for equal funding

Millions of dollars in contributions from liberal benefactors are common in higher education nonetheless HBCU’s rarely receive them. The answer to this shortfall and the solution to put HBCU’s on equal playing field as PWI’s is supplementary funding from state and federal agencies specifically for HBCU’s. The majority if not all the issues HBCU’s face are due to the lack of finances they have at their disposal. Many politicians have noticed this lopsidedness, including the current sitting president, and have taken some steps to correct it. President Trump signed an Executive Order in 2017 requiring federal agencies to work with HBCUs to secure federal grants and contracts. While it was helpful, HBCU’s as well as other political figures noted the order lacked the means to enforce these efforts.

Later, a new bill called the HBCU Propelling Agency Relationships Toward a New Era of Results for Students (HBCU PARTNERS Act) would seek to give some authority to the Order. It forces federal agencies to coordinate efforts to support and expand the participation of HBCU’s in their programs that provide funding. These are all steps in the right direction, but the true resolution is to allocate state and federal funds directly to the HBCU’s that have been systematically oppressed by federal agencies.

The effects of direct state/federal funding would be visible immediately in the substantial improvement in the quality of education. HBCU’s have less accredited programs than their counterparts but with the proper funding they would be able to afford more. In return this will increase the value of the education received and the weight the degree holds in the work force. The appeal of more globally recognized programs would attract more applicants further increasing the revenue stream for the HBCU in question. The increase in admission and retention rate of students also raises the likelihood of future alumni donations and contributions to their alma mater. With a large initial input of funds on the federal level it would be easy to create a continual flow of funds afterwards thus trusting HBCU’s into competition with other higher learning institutions.

With a larger student body, the need for more faculty and staff would also boost, but with the extra funding that would not be a problem. HBCU’s would be able to hire more qualified staff and the inpouring of funds would attract more prestigious professors. Through the ability to re-staff and provide better salaries, HBCU’s would be able to stray away any faculty that may have been holding their institution back. The increase in salaries will upsurge moral among staff and could result in a better experience for the students they interact with. The need to go to the financial aid office will no longer strike resentment in the hearts of HBCU students because the stigma of subpar assistance from staff will be a thing of the past. A harmonious relationship between the student body and faculty can only add to the appeal of the college or university and the moral off all who call it home.


The main draw of most colleges and universities is the experience that a student will receive. The decision to attend a PWI over an HBCU is usually driven by the quality of student life provided. Statistically speaking most HBCU’s have considerably fewer housing accommodations than their white counterparts. With more capital, HBCU’s would be able to lodge more students and improve living conditions for the students that already attend. In addition, being able to provide more financial support to sports teams will increase their ability to compete thus drawing more attendance to games and the university itself.

Better facilities for staff, be it more classroom space or better equipment for instructional time, will directly increase the quality of education for students and moral for professors. The application of funds to improve student life are endless: renovating outdated buildings on campus, providing more dietary options, increasing protection efforts, providing more recreational options within the university’s limits, etc. The draw of HBCU’s will undoubtably be equivalent if not above that of PWI’s not just for black students but people of all races.


  1. Allen, W. R. (1992). The color of success: African-American college student outcomes at predominantly white and historically Black public colleges and universities. Harvard Educational Review, 62(1), 26-44.
  2. Brown, K. (2019). The value of HBCUs: A critical examination of the empirical literature. Journal of Negro Education, 88(2), 147-164.
  3. Gasman, M., & Commodore, F. (2014). HBCUs and philanthropy: New directions for research. Journal of African American Studies, 18(1), 70-81.
  4. Harper, S. R. (2016). Black male student success in higher education: A report from the national Black male college achievement study. University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education.
  5. Palmer, R. T., Davis III, C. H. F., Hilton II, A. A., & Maramba, D. C. (2011). African American college students’ experiences with everyday racism: Characteristics of and responses to these incidents. Journal of African American Studies, 15(3), 304-323.
This essay is graded:
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Expert Review
The essay provides a comprehensive overview of the debate between Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). It covers various aspects such as funding disparities, infrastructure challenges, and the perception of a subpar education at HBCUs. The essay also suggests equal funding as a solution to address these issues. The writing style is generally coherent and the arguments are supported by historical and factual information. However, there are some areas where the essay could be improved. The essay lacks a clear thesis statement or central argument, making it difficult to discern the main point being made. Additionally, the essay could benefit from a more focused structure and organization, as some ideas are presented in a disjointed manner. Overall, with these improvements, the essay could provide a more cohesive and persuasive argument.
minus plus
What can be improved
1) Thesis statement: The essay should clearly state the main argument or thesis in the introduction to provide a clear focus for the rest of the essay. 2) Structure and organization: The essay would benefit from a more logical and organized structure, with clear topic sentences and transitions between paragraphs. 3) Clarity of ideas: Some ideas are presented in a fragmented manner, and the essay would benefit from clearer and more concise expression of arguments. 4) Conclusion: The essay should provide a concise and impactful conclusion that summarizes the main points and reinforces the thesis statement.
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