Under the Dome

Legislative Black Caucus defends historically black colleges

The Legislative Black Caucus met this week with UNC President Tom Ross and UNC Board of Governors leaders to discuss the future of the state’s five historically black campuses.

Though caucus members were assured there is no plan to shutter any of the campuses, they took a proactive step to unite against any such move. On Wednesday, the caucus held a news conference to defend the campuses and advocate for $3 million in each of the next two years to shore up the struggling Elizabeth City State University, which has seen an enrollment drop of nearly 44 percent between 2010 and 2014. The campus took corresponding budget cuts as its student population declined.

Lawmakers said they were concerned about recent comments by a UNC board member who said the university system needed to be “right-sized.” Board chairman John Fennebresque said last week there was no plan to close universities.

But last year, the a state Senate budget amendment called for a study of ECSU, including the possibility of closure. That amendment was quickly dropped, but Black Caucus members say they intend to stay vigilant and united behind the historically black campuses.

“These schools play an important role,” said Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat, adding, “They are no longer going to be put at the bottom of the list.”