President Obama definitely made an entrance for his speech at McKinley High School in Baton Rouge Thursday.
The president was asked dozens of questions afterward, as part of a Q and A. The last one, in particular, stuck out for some.
A Southern University student asked: “What is your take, or advice, to students like me, thousands of students like me, that go to HBCUs and us finishing the course to be used in this society?”
The President responded saying, as a whole, all students can be used, but he did say: “There are some HBCUs that are having trouble with graduation rates, and that’s a source of concern.”
“I didn’t have a really big problem with the president’s answer to that question because he did acknowledge HBCUs have done an excellent job producing many of the doctors, the lawyers and the pharmacists,” said Dr. Albert Samuels, the dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Southern University.
However, Dr. Samuels said it does start a conversation.
“HBCUs have shown they are effective at graduating black college students,” he said. “The real question is, why has the other about 4,000 institutions been so ineffective at graduating black students?”
Historically, HBCUs have struggled to get their enrollment and graduation rates up, but Dr. Samuels said there is more to it than meets the eye.
“The point is not that we should not be concerned about graduation rates, but often times, data can be misleading,” Dr. Samuels said. “In many ways, our HBCUs are really taking on some of the students who are the hardest to educate and the hardest to graduate.”
Louisiana is home to four Historically Black Colleges and Universities, with the Southern University System being the largest. Over the past two years, Southern has seen an increase in graduation rates.