New Book Explores the Opportunities and Challenges of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Written by Penn education graduate students, the book seeks to provide a deeper understanding of major issues in higher education while focusing on the context and commitment of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Philadelphia, Feb. 18, 2015 – As the nation’s demographics change, and as policy makers and thought leaders turn their focus increasingly on the importance of higher education in American society, the role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) comes into a sharper focus.

While HBCUs represent only 3 percent of all colleges and universities in the United States, they enroll 8 percent of African American students. Moreover, minority-serving institutions, such as HBCUs, enroll a disproportionately large number of low-income students who are more apt to come from high-stress and under-resourced communities, and yet many are the first in their families to attend college.

Until now, the scholarship on HBCUs has been limited to a few areas. A new book, “Opportunities and Challenges of Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” seeks to shed light on several key roles HBCUs play.

Each chapter was written by a graduate student in a seminar on Black Colleges, taught by Marybeth Gasman, a professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions, a research center in Penn’s Graduate School of Education (GSE). 

“The students worked hard to understand the issues surrounding Black colleges and to create new knowledge,” said Gasman, who co-edited the book along with Felecia Commodore, a Ph.D. candidate at GSE and a research assistant at the Center for Minority Serving Institutions. “With this book, we seek to bolster the literature by presenting new research that spans the landscape of HBCUs and informs new areas of interest and research,” said Gasman. 

Some of the book’s topics include the role HBCUs play in populating and creating pipelines for faculty of color, college administrators of color, and graduate students of color, as well as the ways in which HBCUs can address the areas of retention, alumni giving, and media relations. Additional topics pertinent to HBCUs and explored in the book include diversity on campuses, class and elitism issues, and study-abroad and honors programs.

“We hope this book will create conversation and serve as the impetus for better practices at HBCUs and for more rigorous research,” noted Commodore.

The book, Opportunities and Challenges of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, published by Palgrave Macmillan, is available now. For a 30% discount on the book, please click here.  


About The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions

The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions brings together researchers and practitioners from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions. The Center’s goals include: elevating the educational contributions of MSIs; ensuring that they are a part of national conversations; bringing awareness to the vital role MSIs play in the nation’s economic development; increasing the rigorous scholarship of MSIs; connecting MSIs’ academic and administrative leadership to promote reform initiatives; and strengthening efforts to close educational achievement gaps among disadvantaged communities.

About Penn GSE 

Penn GSE is one of the nation’s premier research education schools. No other education school enjoys a university environment as supportive of practical knowledge building as the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania. The School is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals, unique partnerships with local educators, and the first-ever business plan competition devoted exclusively to educational products and programs. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit