As a student at Carver High School, Douglas Troutman grew up attending the Tuskegee Morehouse Classic football games that have been held in Columbus for 80 years. So when it was time to choose a college, Troutman looked mostly at historically black colleges and universities.
Now, the 1975 graduate of Morehouse College is hoping to recruit a new generation of Columbus HBCU students. On Saturday, he and other members of the HBCU Columbus Georgia Committee will host an HBCU Day in the Park, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Frank Chester Recreation Center, 1441 Benning Dr.
The event will include recruiters from 10 HBCUs and panel discussions on college financing, the relevancy of historically black colleges in an integrated society and the role such institutions play in the American educational system. Schools represented will include Morehouse, Spelman College, Tuskegee University, Fort Valley State University, Albany State University, Alabama State University, Alabama A&M University, Florida A&M University, Talladega College and Voorhees College.
HBCUs are institutions established prior to 1964 for the principal purpose of educating black Americans, but they have become more diverse in recent years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. There are currently 100 HBCUs located in 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of that amount, 51 are public and 49 are private, not-for-profit institutions.
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“These institutions were founded and developed in an environment of legal segregation and, by providing access to higher education, contributed substantially to the progress blacks have made in improving their status,” according to information on the NCES website. “Although HBCUs were originally founded to educate black students, they have historically enrolled students other than black Americans. This diversity has increased over time. In 2011, non-black students made up 19 percent of enrollment at HBCUs, compared with 15 percent in 1976.”
Troutman said many black leaders in the Chattahoochee Valley have graduated from HBCU’s. The extensive list includes State Rep. Calvin Smyre, a graduate of Fort Valley State University; former Chief Judge John Allen, a graduate of Tuskegee University; Russell County Circuit Judge Michael Bellamy, a graduate of Tuskegee University; City Manager Isaiah Hugley, a graduate of Talladega College; Miss Columbus Cierra Jackson, a graduate of Spelman College; and Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin, a graduate of Tuskegee.
Yet, it’s not as easy convincing students to attend historically black institutions as it used to be, Troutman said, mainly because college tuition has risen dramatically and other institutions are more competitive with funding.
“We still turn out a high quality of professionals,” he said. “But it all boils down, in my opinion, to economics.”
Troutman said recruiters will help students work through the numbers on Saturday, and it’s important for parents to also be there.
“The students get all caught up in the tradition, the fraternities, the sororities, the colors, the atmosphere, but the parents are the ones that have to write that check,” he said. “So there are a lot of avenues financially that we can assist and provide information to get the kids in school. There’s a lot of aid there that the parents may not be aware of that we can plug them into.”
Troutman said some people may consider HBCUs no longer relevant because American society is more integrated, but they are still very much needed.
“The playing field has changed because a while ago this was our major lead to get into college. The other schools weren’t letting us in, or they were just letting one or two in,” he said. “Now they have diversified enough so the playing field is a little more competitive. But we’re still a viable option for that A student and also for that B student.
“Most of the other schools are just looking for the cream of the crop kind of thing,” he continued. “We want that student too, but at the same time we’re willing to look at the qualifications of that other student to be able to provide them an educational format to be able to contribute to society.”
For more information, contact Douglas Troutman at 404-545-2176 or Saundra Ellison at 706-662-4321.
Alva James-Johnson, 706-571-8521. Reach her on Facebook at AlvaJamesJohnsonLedger.