Where Are All The HBCU Online Education Programs?

A growing trend over the past ten years is for students to continue their high school or undergraduate education via an online education program. These programs are available at numerous regular colleges and universities for a wide variety of majors at every level of college. With more schools embracing online programs, how many HBCU’s have a program in place where students can earn a bachelor or graduate degree through online education?

It has been estimated that no more than 12 HBCU’s out of over 140 have made this option available.  There is a growing debate in terms of whether or not it makes sense for HBCU’s to add this booming education segment (which brings profit along with the increased enrollment) to the curriculum possibilities.

Let’s look at three reasons that are commonly believed to be why HBCU’s have avoided creating online education programs:

1) Adding an online education program could further decrease retention and graduation rates which could in turn affect accreditation. For many of the “major” HBCU’s, this is a non-issue as their accreditation will remain strong and fruitful for years to come. With the HBCU’s in rural or “outlying” areas, a change in perspective could be needed to see the benefit.

“I think that online programs for adult learners will work best at institutions that are in more isolated areas,” said Marybeth Gasman, HBCU expert. “Take Lincoln University or Cheyney University in Pennsylvnia or perhaps Prairie View A&M University in Texas for example.  I also think that some of the other HBCUs in Mississippi (Alcorn and Mississippi Valley) could benefit.  Through online programs, adult learners living in rural areas could gain degrees more easily.  I also think that online education at HBCUs might work at urban institutions if they reach out to busy adults who need flexibility. ”

2) Many HBCU’s do not have the necessary funds to support the technological infrastructure for an online program. Translation: Money is a huge issue. However it’s not an insurmountable one. There are a number of opportunities out there for colleges and uniersities to partner with a corporation for assistance in creating and managing the program. Many companies in the tech industry are looking to give back to the community and promote a diverse management workforce while supplying some of their own technology.

3) Being a part of an online program cannot replicate the personal growing experience one can attain from actually attending a HBCU in person. This is a legitimate point. I choose to look at it from a different perspective, however. This could offer limited exposure to people who have always wanted to attend an HBCU but perhaps money or personal situations prevented them.

Tom Joyner has also recognized the missing HBCU’s from the online education segment. He has recently invested $7 million to start HBCUsOnline.com, which has a goal of being the one-stop shop for African Americans to browse online education programs at HBCUs. The target age range for HBCUsOnline is adult learners, 25 years and older, who already have thriving careers and might not have the time to stop working and attend an undergraduate or graduate school full time.

The site launched on September 14, 2010 and so far Hampton University and Texas Southern are the two HBCUs available. I openly ask Howard University (my alma mater), Florida A&M, North Carolina AT&T, and Loyola University what is taking so long to either start an online education program or partner with HBCUsOnline. Seems like a win/win to me.

How do you feel about online education? Does it have a place at HBCUs? I say most definitely. Leave us your thoughts in the comments section.



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