Another important HBCU is on the brink of financial ruin

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wilberforceApril V. Taylor

The Root is reporting that the country’s oldest black private university, Wilberforce University in Ohio, is in jeopardy of closing.  The HBCU was founded in 1856 and was the first college to be owned and operated by African Americans.  W.E.B. DuBois taught at the school at one point.  The college has survived a myriad of issues, including the Civil War and arson, to educate generations of black leaders, teachers, ministers, doctors, and politicians.

The school is now facing plummeting enrollment, a shocking and debilitating financial deficit of $9.7 million, and to make matters even worse, the school is in danger of losing its accreditation.  Alumni from the school are attempting to rescue the beloved HBCU by raising $3 million in cash donations.  The group has currently received $400,000 in promised donations from alumni and an additional $200,000 in pledges.

The school is attempting to change its structure in an effort to return the institution to a more functional state.  This includes making changes to the board of directors, renovating facilities, changing academic curriculum, and finding a president who has a vision that will help the school move forward in its restructuring effort.

READ MORE via Financial Juneteenth | Another important HBCU is on the brink of financial ruin.


  1. J. D. Hill

    August 3, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    On June 12, 2014, the accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association issued a SHOW CAUSE ORDER to Wilberforce University, requiring the university to respond by December 15, 2014, relative to why the Commission should not withdraw regional accreditation from Wilberforce University.

    The primary problem appears to be that Wilberforce is not on sound financial footing. How could it be when, as with Black businesses in general, Black people would rather support predominantly White colleges and universities rather than their own!

    Wilberforce University is affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. How many of the 2.5 million members of the AME Church send their own children to AME or HBCU colleges? How many of the thousands of AME pastors, clergy, and leaders send their children to Wilberforce or any of their other affiliate colleges?

    If Black people refuse to use their own resources to support their own businesses, professions, trades, and colleges, they should not expect others to do so either. It takes money to stay in business!

    Wilberforce is a great HBCU institution. Call (937)376-2911 to find out how we can help keep WU on track.

    • Eddie Francis

      August 4, 2014 at 11:02 am

      J.D., I see your point but these issues go so deep. First, let me state that I am an advocate of HBCUs even though I didn’t graduate from one. Second, I worked at two of them so I saw dysfunctional behavior from the inside.

      One issue is too many HBCU boards and administrators (leadership) run these schools based on how they FEEL on any given day. Great minds agree to take pay cuts to work at HBCUs, they arrive, then wind up leaving a year or two later because of “personality conflicts.” That almost always means they had to deal with narcissistic leaders or toxic work cultures.

      Both are invitations for horrible customer service. Students get treated like crap, being told (in so many words) that they are lucky to even be at anyone’s college instead of being empowered to learn. Then those students transfer to PWIs or even community colleges while those who are already at-risk just drop out and forget about college. Bad customer service also runs good leaders and promising young talent far, far way from HBCU culture, as a whole. Bad customer service also angers alumni and supporters, causing them not to give one red cent.

      I know, first hand, of a former HBCU fundraiser (previously successful at three different PWIs) who asked for a donor list so she could DO HER JOB. Since the president and his assistants seemed to feel some kinda way about her, it took them weeks to give her what she needed. She shared stories of other fundraisers at HBCUs who had been given everything from hand-written lists to photo copies of Excel spreadsheets. The result? Since fundraisers are in high demand, they take their talents elsewhere and vow NEVER to work for HBCUs again.

      I advocate saving Wilberforce because students and alumni deserve it, but lack of support often comes from bad customer service (to students, alumni and supporters) and toxic work cultures that run qualified, competent talent away.

  2. Lamar Wilson

    August 4, 2014 at 8:43 am

    The AME Church has lost most of the schools they started, however most of the Bishops are millionaires. the focus has been lost and the mission of the AME Church has changed. As an AME member we hear the horror stories of mismanagement in this organization. They travel all over the country stay in expensive hotels and waste monies like it’s going out of style. It is shameful but nothing will happen. Take a look of most of the churches and the condition they are in. Most are in need of renovation and repair but it goes under the radar and people or members are to busy caught up in religion and not people or education. Malcolm X once it’s a fool that lets the enemy educate their children, and I will end with that. God is watching and allot of those guys and gals will be surprised when they do not get into the Kingdom of heaven because of their greed. Lamar Wilson

  3. Rev.Dr.Burrison

    August 4, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    As a Bishop my heart BREAKS at this culture wide dilemma we face. However we must remember that all evil needs to succeed is for good people do do nothing. We must always maintain the integrity and honor that scripture and our forebears taught us even when “leadership” may forget!

    • Eddie Francis

      August 5, 2014 at 9:43 am

      Bishop Burrison, if Wilberforce is going to survive this, several things need to happen.

      1) Bring in an accreditation expert to help WU meet their December deadline–not a friend, an expert. This isn’t personal; it’s business.

      2) While that is happening, the bishop in that district needs to look into best practices for successful management of a university and have conversations with the board chair and president about it. This isn’t about personal relationships; it’s about business. They NEED to be about the business of saving WU, regardless of whose feelings they’re going to hurt.

      3) Identify administrators and staff who are struggling with the management process and either get them professional development ASAP or get rid of them. Their attitudes will tell you whether or not they’re up for the challenge. This isn’t personal; it’s business.

      4) Replace your bad apples in the administration and on staff with young, bright minds (regardless of race) who have the skill set to do their jobs and the attitude to weather this storm. Understand that if they are young, they will make WU a three to five year project then move on. Don’t take it personally; it’s business.

      WU needs to be treated like a business and it starts with making sure the right people are there taking care of the business that matters most.

  4. Meghann

    August 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I attended an HBCU (UDC) Washington, D.C., it was one of the best experience of my life. I felt more at ease studying and learning with people who cared about me. It was a very comfortable environment, I could interact with teachers knowing they had my best interest at heart.

    Please consider an HBCU for yourself or if you are a parent, consider it for your child.

  5. Kj

    August 4, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    And the beat goes on, the AME need to come out of denial, 9 out of 12 institutions are mismanaged and none of the Bishops will step up because they really do not know what to do. Also, they pray that their district institution can slip by without being view about their stewardship before the next gen. conference and they are transferred.
    I speak from working at one of their institutions and not given the truth or the tools asked to complete my position as a competent professional that I am.

    I pray for the sake of the communities and students that the organization gains some insight and vision.

  6. Joyce Carter

    August 5, 2014 at 12:24 am

    This is so sad, after reading the above comments it’s disturbing. It appears there is lack in leadership skills. Blacks often fail because we don’t work together, we miss- manage our money. I have not read one positive comment regarding the bishops. This is
    a sad situation for our Black community. We claim we want our children to attend Black colleges however we are giving them reasons to go elswhere.

    • Eddie Francis

      August 5, 2014 at 9:24 am

      TRUE, Joyce. Here is the saddest part. There is no shortage of leadership and higher education consultants who approach HBCUs to offer their services, even free sometimes. What happens? Too many institutions accept the services, allow the consultants to do their jobs, then refuse to follow up on or execute one piece of advice the consultant offered. I’ve seen it for myself…twice.

  7. E. Wright

    August 5, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Wow… Most of our so-called “educated” and “wealthy” are really, really sad. Our history should make us the most united group of people the world has ever seen. But instead we’re busy trying to imitate our oppressor’s greedy and selfish ways. Education is one of the main ingredients in our struggle to uplift our people, but negros are so busy being greedy and selfish they miss the tree due to the forest. Dr. W.E.B Dubois painted this picture vividly in his great work “The Mis-Education of the Negro” and Bro. Malcolm was right in his observation that “Only a fool would let his enemies educate his children”. African Americans have more than enough accumulated wealth to support our schools, but we ignorantly choose not to.

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