As a growing number of students opt to pursue online degrees instead of attending traditional universities, Historically Black Colleges and Universities are looking to build their online offerings, according to The Associated Press.
Lincoln University administrator Marcus Hill, for example, is working to adopt online degree programs after obtaining an online doctorate degree himself. Spearheading the movement is syndicated radio show host Tom Joyner, who launched HBCUsOnline.com with his son last September.
"My father noticed very early on that a lot of the students doing the online education boom were members of his listening audience," Tom Joyner Jr. told the AP. "Those listeners could be better served by HBCUs."
HBCUs have long been hailed by the Black community for their rich traditions and legacies, and experts believe that the universities should attempt to recapture Black students from online, for-profit universities such as the University of Phoenix.
According to the American Council of Education, though Blacks comprised nearly 12 percent of total enrollment in higher education in 2007, 21 percent attended for-profit universities, many of which were online.
Nearly one-third of the country's 4,500 universities offer online degrees, the Sloan Consortium points out. But just 10 percent of the nation's 105 HBCUs offer similar programs, according to the White House Initiative on historical Black institutions.
Education officials believe that finances have been the primary roadblock for HBCUs obtaining online programs, as many of the institutions usually have small endowments and are mainly tuition-reliant.
Some experts also believe that the Black institutions' implementation of online degrees could sharply reverse sagging graduation and retention rates that are linked to financial difficulties for many of its students,
But some fear that the celebrated "HBCU experience" will be lost in translation when attending online classes.
Joyner's HBCUsOnline boasts 25 online programs from Hampton and Texas Southern Universities. With other institutions expected to join in the future, Joyner says the site will also utilize social media to help students capture the essence of the Black college experience.
"Everyone knows I'm passionate about my HBCUs, and I'm working hard to find ways for my beloved Black colleges to survive well into--and beyond--the 21st century," Joyner told BlackAmericaWeb.com.
"HBCUsOnline is offering a convenient, easy-to-use way for students to complete their undergraduate degrees or better yet, get a graduate degree," Joyner said in a statement. "We're going to treat every student as if they're on an HBCU Campus. They'll be part of a community that will be with them from registration to graduation!"
PHOTO: Students at Johnson C. Smith University, 2007 Courtesy of www.blackpast.org