This newsletter is about the role of higher ed in society. Each week, we highlight how college is (or is not) working for citizens and communities. It goes out most Friday mornings — If someone forwarded this to you, you can sign up for your own copy here.

Expanding coverage of a critical sector

We’re excited to announce this week that we’re creating the HBCU Student Journalism Network, a paid reporting fellowship to expand coverage of historically Black colleges.

In partnership with Jarrett Carter Sr., a veteran journalist and the founder of HBCU Digest, we’ll work with up to six HBCU student journalists starting early next year. They’ll focus on covering their campuses for regional and national audiences while exploring the trends affecting the entire sector. (Know anyone who might be interested? Here’s where to apply.)

“I am truly excited to partner with Open Campus in developing a pipeline of student journalists from HBCUs who will expand reporting on these invaluable institutions,” says Carter, who will serve as the editorial director of the project. “There is no better area than higher education to help emerging writers find their voices and hone their skills in journalism.”

The network is supported by grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, and the Scripps Howard Fund.

Fellows will be paid $1,200 per month. They’ll receive professional development and training opportunities, and select stories will be published by Open Campus, with some of Open Campus’s local partner newsrooms, and with Capital B, a Black-led, nonprofit local and national news organization reporting for Black communities across the country. 

A new generation’s embrace

The nation’s more than 100 HBCUs have received new attention in recent years. Some of the larger and more prominent campuses have seen enrollment surges even as other colleges have faced declines in the pandemic. MacKenzie Scott, the billionaire philanthropist, made headlines by handing out surprise gifts of tens of millions of dollars to some of them. And the sector has gained visibility with Kamala Harris, a Howard University graduate, in the White House.

Earlier this year, Erica Green at The New York Times explored the draw of HBCUs for today’s students. “They belong to a generation whose adolescence was shaped not only by the election of the first Black president but also by political and social strife that threatened the lives and liberties of Black Americans,” Green wrote.

“For many families, the embrace of historically Black colleges has been influenced by concerns about racial hostility, students’ feelings of isolation in predominantly white schools, and shifting views on what constitutes the pinnacle of higher education.”

Still, HBCUs are under-covered, especially given the big roles that they play. Over their history, Green noted in her story, HBCUs have educated most of the nation’s Black judges, half of its Black doctors, and 40 percent of the Black members of Congress.

Big societal roles

More reporting on HBCUs is especially critical, Carter says, at a time when there’s growing emphasis on improving race relations in community functions like public safety, public health, and education.

“We can’t avoid coverage of colleges and universities that are overwhelmingly training people of color to lead in these industries and addressing research and development gaps for people of color in the social areas impacted by these industries.”

At the same time, Carter adds, we also should be expanding coverage of innovation inspired by HBCUs to tackle some of society’s key problems: “Child care, ethnic and cultural support systems, gender equity in leadership — these are all HBCU traditional practices that all colleges and universities are looking to emulate.”

— Sara Hebel

+ Read more about the HBCU Student Journalism Network. The deadline for students to apply is December 1. The short application is available here.

++ Have story ideas, questions about the network, or want to work with us? Send us a note.

Elsewhere on Open Campus

Photo: Element5 Digital on Unsplash

In The Job: Paul Fain analyzes the post-election outlook for states’ workforce training.

In Florida, the University of Florida’s president-elect is getting lots of advice on ways to heal the wounds opened by his candidacy. Divya Kumar reports on the huge hill Ben Sasse has to climb as he starts the job.

“He’s going to have to show he’s not beholden to Tallahassee or the governor,” the president of the graduate assistant union said. “I don’t want him to be nonpartisan, I want him to stand up for UF.”

Also in Florida, Divya writes about how Florida universities are pushing back on proposed new rules for faculty tenure.

In Mississippi, Molly Minta and Anna Wolfe report on the faculty response to how the University of Southern Mississippi broke its silence on its role in the unfolding welfare scandal. The faculty called the statement a confusing attempt to shift blame: “It’s sort of like seeing through the fog.”

In The Intersection, Naomi Harris talks with Paulette Granberry Russell, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, about what people get wrong about the debate over race in admissions and why it matters.

“It’s this notion of: How do you create a diverse student body that brings that robust exchange of ideas? But also acknowledging pursuit of a diverse student body includes race and ethnicity and a whole range of other ways in which we define diversity. In the absence of that, voices are missing. Ideas are missing.”

Double your donation

Between now and the end the year, your gift to Open Campus will be doubled, thanks to NewsMatch. (And new monthly donations will be matched 12x.)

The work we do with reporters across the country wouldn’t be possible without the support of our readers and funders. Please consider donating to help us add in-depth coverage of college to more communities. Thank you!

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Co-founder and editor-in-chief of Open Campus