Could Bennett’s Lost Be NCCU’s Gain?
GREENSBORO, NC (www.hbcudigest.com) – Three months ago, Bennett College President Rosalind Fuse-Hall was on a roll. Alumnae of the 143-year-old institution had just given more than $700,000 in support of scholarships and capacity building at the school, and the college was six months removed from announcing a new partnership with Wells Fargo Advisors to train women for the financial sector.
On August 15th, she will step down as president after three years at the helm of an institution with $29 million of economic impact to the State of North Carolina, and generations social and professional impact on thousands of women around the world.
She says she’s leaving to pursue opportunities. Industrial wisdom tells the observer that probably, she’s being forced to resign. The reasons aren’t secret — Bennett’s double burden as a historically black college for women has been heavy to carry in the swirling changes in higher education.
Black women, one of the nation’s fastest-growing ethnic groups in terms of educational access, have the largest cross-section of college choice, scholarship opportunities, and statistical probability of completing college on time and getting a job. Cruelly and bluntly, they no longer need Bennett College to stand in the gap for their professional development.
The heart wants to ache for that stinging reality, but the head makes a difficult case against it. Sweet Briar College, a predominantly white women’s liberal arts college in rural Virginia, tried to close last year but had its doors pried open by stubborn alumnae, who raised money, sued the board of trustees, and literally traveled to campus to rehab facilities and to recruit new students.
You can only hope for Bennett, and other HBCUs to survive the economic and political onslaughts which threaten, according to some estimates, more than a third of our four-year institutions with extinction.
But even if they survive today, it is only for the tormenting delay of an inevitable truth: America doesn’t want HBCUs, and the niche groups in Black America willing to send their children and gifts to schools like Bennett aren’t large enough to save them.