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The State of HBCUs: Spelman College

By Titus Falodun Staff Writer | 9/27/2013, 6 a.m.
Friendship Baptist Church was the founding base for Spelman College some 132 years ago, when two teachers Harriet E. Giles ...
Boasting alumnae that are among the nation’s biggest movers and shakers, Spelman College’s future is far from dim.

“It has been very gratifying to see the steady growth of alumnae support, despite the economic downturn, hitting a high of 41 percent in 2011,” Tatum said.

Triphenya Zachery Bailey, owner of Positive PRess Consulting (a media relations and strategy business), is one of those proud Spelman alums that refuse to give up on the school.

“I always made it a point to give back to the college,” she said.

Bailey graduated from Spelman in 1987, where majored in English and minored in mass communications.

“I also realized there’s a lot of younger students that are there that can benefit from us financially. Whenever they would call and make a plea, it’s hard for me to say no. I know what the sisters are going through. It may be only $25 that I can give, but I can give you that.”

Spelman depends on small and large contributions, from the likes of Bailey to celebrities like Bill Cosby, Keisha Knight Pulliam, and other notables.

Success, however, has not made Spelman immune to financial struggle.

The total educational cost for attending the school this year is $36,579. For HBCUs, that is significantly high.

In 2012, 218 post-secondary were cited endanger of losing federal student aid if their students continue to exhibit three-year default rates over 30 percent, per the Department of Education. Fourteen were HBCUs. Approximately, 3.2 percent could lose federal support, 13.3 percent of HBCUs.

The student-loan default rate is about 14 percent nationally, which matches Spelman’s rate, according to the Wall Street Journal article entitled “A Degree Drawn in Red Ink.”

Tatum explained that the amount of scholarship support Spelman provides annually has tripled since 2002, but the financial need of the student body has also risen dramatically.

Fellow Atlanta University Center schools (Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College) have had to trim cost, by reducing staff and faculty, in order to make ends meet.

In 2009, Spelman announced its decision to lay off 23 faculty and staff, due to the effects of the Great Recession. Financial, not academic retention became the main reason for students leaving the institutions within the AU Center. At that time, 40 percent of Spelman students were Pell grant eligible. The grant is federal money that helps need-based students pay for their collegiate education, sans repayment.

“In 2002, 30 percent of our students have family incomes low enough to be eligible for Pell grants,” she said. “Today, more than 50 percent are Pell-eligible.”

Tatum also cited that in 2009, Spelman launched a major fundraising campaign with a goal of $150 million, in order to increase resources to support financial aid. To date, more than $140 million has been raised. Currently, Spelman’s endowment has accrued to $327.2 million.

In addition, Spelman has a higher graduation rate than most HBCUs, with a 64 percent 4-year graduation rate and a 73 percent 6-year graduation rate.

Boasting alumnae that are among the nation’s biggest movers and shakers, Spelman College’s future is far from dim. By appealing to talented young women who are ready to make a choice to change the world, Tatum is helping Atlanta’s exclusively female liberal arts college retain its luster and prestige.

“In sports, a good coach kicks everything off the right way,” HBCU Digest’s Jarrett Carter, Sr. said, alluding to Tatum. “Same thing with an HBCU president.”

Spelman College: www.spelman.edu

Click the following for Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College.