Will You Help Defend Our Legacy?
by Dr. Helen Fleming Johnson, Austin Chapter
UAPB/AM&N National Board of Directors – Southwest Region
Editor UAPB/AM&NUAPB Alumni Voices ROARr Newsletter
UAPB/AM&N Diamond Alumni Life Member
“Dear Mother”, The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Arkansas is OUR legacy. It was authorized in 1873 by the Reconstruction-era legislature as the Branch Normal College and open in 1875. It is the ONLY land grant university/ college in the state of Arkansas. It is one of 107 historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) under attack and underfunded on State and Federal levels. For example:
Per the Associate Press (AP/KARK) article dated September 2023, The Biden administration stated that historically Black land-grant universities in Arkansas and 15 other states have missed out on $12.6 billion in funding over the last three decades. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack sent letters to the governors of each state asking them to increase funding. Cardona stated, “Unacceptable funding inequities have forced many of our nation’s distinguished historically Black colleges and universities to operate with inadequate resources and delay critical investments in everything from campus infrastructure to research and development to student support services.”
Federal law requires states to provide an equitable distribution of state funding for all land-grant universities. The National Center for Education Statistics found the funding disparity in 16 of 18 states that house Black land grants. Only Delaware and Ohio provided equitable funding. Governor Sarah Huckabee Sander’s office responded to the letter citing education support the UAPB. However, the office did not mention how it would correct disparity in funding of UAPB.
UAPB like other HBCUs now find themselves in a continuing controversy on whether they should exist in a post–Brown v. Board of Education and post-Obama environment. The relevancy of HBCUs has been the subject of academic inquiry, and many media outlets recently have raised the question of the continued existence of these institutions. Some believe that HBCUs are a remaining vestige of segregation, and many cite the opportunity for African Americans to now attend all institutions of higher education-unlike at the time of the founding of HBCUs. The financial exigency in many states are making leaders take a look at the increasingly scarce funding for higher education, and states are taking a hard look at the future of financing HBCUs. States and the federal government have also placed a renewed focus on accountability, and HBCUs have been criticized for their performance on the metrics used to evaluate all higher education institutions. Simply put, the world of higher education is changing. And funding and existence of HBCUs is under attack!
HBCUs are a part of the diverse set of 4,879 degree-granting two-year and four-year institutions (1,783 two-year and 3,096 four-year). These institutions have made significant contributions to student access, attainment, research, innovation, and the national economy, all while colleges and universities are being asked to cut costs and land-grant colleges were denied equitable funding. and create efficiencies because of the concern over the rising costs of higher education
Branch Normal College, Arkansas Mechanical and Normal College (AM&N) today known as The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Arkansas is a fully accredited by the higher learning commission. The university offers 31 baccalaureate, 12 master’s, and one PHD across a broad spectrum of subject areas. Graduates from this institution have proven their abilities and excelled in every aspect of American life from Harvard to NASA. Graduates foundational skills and knowledge have stood the test of Fortune 500 companies, institution and other world organizations.
During this historical change in higher education, we must be an active part of history! Please be aware that our university will be measured on 1) graduation rates, 2) retention rate, 3) remediation rate, 4) money management, 5) faculty credentials as well as other forms of accountability. And we must hold the State of Arkansas accountable for land-grants funding and other federal and state resources UAPB is entitled.
It is our duty as alumni to ask the hard questions, help secure equitable distribution of state and federal funds, protect and defend ‘Dear Mother’. Let us use our collective voices and actively lobby State and Federal agencies for funds needed by our university! Are you willing to support her with your time, talent and/or resources? Will you advocate/lobby for UAPB in your community, Arkansas State Legislature, Governor’s Office and/or Federal Governmental agencies?
Please support The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the UAPB National Alumni Association. If you are not a member of the alumni association please join today. Let us remain united. We are the Mighty Lions! We will and must defend “Dear Mother” and our 150-year-old legacy.