Threat to Black Colleges in Mississippi

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Black collegeWith the economic recovery still slow and jobs hard to come by, African-Americans are having a harder time enough taking care of their families than the rest of the population. To retrain for new jobs in this changing economy, government officials and every pundit on television has been?encouraging those who have been laid off to go back to school.???However, that option may not be there for long in Mississippi.

The state?s Gov. Haley Barbour, who earlier this year refused federal stimulus money meant for extending unemployment benefits to the jobless, has proposed merging three Black colleges into one institution called Jackson State University. He contends that the campuses?of Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University could still operate independently within the larger Jackson State University.

The governor?s proposal marks the most dramatic state challenge in recent years to the continuation of some public Black colleges. Moreover, the move comes in a state whose higher education system has a history of excluding Blacks. Indeed, the Mississippi higher education system was?the subject of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that governs college desegregation.??Proposals such as Gov. Barbour?s are not new. The struggle for financial and academic stability continues at many Black colleges and universities.

Yet, despite these nagging financial and accreditation troubles and relatively low graduation rates, historically Black colleges continue to remain an integral part of the educational equation for African-Americans and are growing in popularity, according to a comprehensive new study by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. ??Gov. Barbour?s proposal is a worrisome, very real challenge to the future of?Black colleges.?If the proposal is adopted, this may open the floodgates to similar action in other states.