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Harris’s Win Renews HBCU VS. PWI Debate

Harris’s Win Renews HBCU VS. PWI Debate

11.20.20
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
11.20.20

As Vice President-elect Kamala Harris becomes the first in office to have graduated from a historically Black college and university, it’s bringing back an old debate to social media between students from HBCUs and predominately white institutions.

The debate revolves around some believing Black students who attend PWIs get a better educational experience than at an HBCU, and some who think they’re better than ones who attended HBCUs.

Students from Harris’s alma mater, Howard University, feel like her win shuts down the narrative that HBCUs don’t prepare students for real-life scenarios. 

Eric Gaines, a sophomore at Howard, said her win shows that just like PWI students, HBCU students are just as prepared.

“My problem with the debate is that, in my experience, Black students from PWIs look down on students from HBCUs because the idea is that “we don’t get properly prepared” for the real world and working with other races when that simply is untrue,” Gaines said. 

Harris has been vocal for her support towards HBCUs when campaigning and President-elect Joe Biden and Harris promised to invest $70 billion in the institutions. 

“In relation to the history of HBCUs, [students] decide to take on a profession of service, which often does not pay as well as if they go into the private sector and do other things,” Harris said, according to MarketWatch. “So for those students who come out and have jobs that pay less than $125,000, student-loan debt will also be forgiven.”

Tiana Jemmott, a junior at Bowie State University, said while the debate is pointless, Harris’s win wasn’t just a win for Black people, but for HBCUs.

“HBCUs, now that she has won, have been getting a lot of attention and I really hope that this helps with us getting the funding we need to continue to support the Black youth of today,” Jemmott said. 

Jemmott said students at her own high school shamed her for wanting to go to an HBCU and mentors told her she would have a more “well rounded” and “enriching experience” from a PWI. 

Cass Thompson, a junior at Grambling State University, said HBCUs are hardly recognized, and when they are, it’s the same schools such as Spelman College, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University.

“I definitely think the debate is ridiculous,” Thompson said. “There’s no need to compare and contrast because we’re all getting the same education, but as always people feel a PWI degree means more than an HBCU degree.” 

Taryn Larkin-Warren, a senior at Tennessee State University, thinks the debate between HBCUs and PWIs won’t be over until all HBCUs are respected.

“I think it’s wonderful that Harris will be elected to office,” Larkin-Warren said. “I hope she ensures we aren’t overlooked anymore.” 

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