Alumnus advocates for historically black colleges and universities with passion derived from personal and professional experience.
Leonard Haynes III understands the importance of historically black colleges and universities both professionally and personally.
A longtime policymaker, he has worked tirelessly to strengthen the 106 historically black colleges and universities in the United States. These schools educate many low-income, first-generation college students who are minorities. Yet Haynes worries these institutions — all created before 1964, and many right after the Civil War — will decline if serious problems are not addressed.
He is a graduate of an HBCU, as was his grandfather, Leonard Haynes, a minister and civil rights leader in Texas. Twelve other family members also are HBCU graduates, and he hopes his 4-year-old grandson, Leonard V, will be one, too.
However, the survival of HBCUs is threatened by cutbacks in state and federal funding, declining enrollments and high debt at some schools. Some people are asking whether these institutions, once the only place where black students could get an education, are still relevant. Haynes ’75 PhD has an answer: The colleges fill a niche and offer services that other schools don’t.
“HBCUs are committed to educating those who view the society from the bottom up,” he said. Haynes added that these institutions are more willing to take on students who face long odds and provide mentoring and intensive follow-up to help these students succeed. As proof, he noted that HBCUs award degrees to more than 20 percent of all black graduates, despite representing just three percent of all colleges and universities.
Several national studies show that HBCU graduates are more likely to earn graduate degrees than students at traditional institutions. Haynes noted that Ohio State, where he earned a PhD in educational administration, has an excellent record in that respect.
“Frank Hale, who was a distinguished vice provost for minority affairs at Ohio State, was very successful in creating a pipeline for black college graduates from HBCUs to come to Ohio State to study for advanced degrees,” he said. “Ohio State has always had a positive reputation in the black college community.”
Getting equity and parity for HBCUs is his major goal. Many states do not fund public HBCUs at the same level they fund other public institutions, so leaders must do a better job advocating and showing their value.
They also do not get their fair share of federal research dollars. Haynes took on the battle when he served as director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities from 2007 to 2009. He was successful in increasing the amount of federal research dollars awarded to HBCUs and also created technical and leadership conferences to train leaders at these institutions.
In his current job, as a senior director at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education, he administers Title III funding to HBCUs and other minority programs and continues to be one of the nation’s leading advocates for minority postsecondary education.
“HBCUs have already done so much with so little,” he said. “That’s what motivates me to keep fighting on their behalf. I know if they can get the support, they will be successful.”