Bloomfield College is the only Predominantly Black Institution in New Jersey. “Predominantly Black Institution” is a term that’s not necessarily new to the higher ed landscape but is still not fully understood. This leaves PBIs underappreciated and underfunded.
“HBCU” is a familiar word in the higher education lexicon. Deservingly so, Historically Black Colleges and Universities were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They were vital institutions during segregation when most colleges and universities in the United States disqualified or limited Black student enrollment. HBCUs continue to provide college degrees and opportunities to African Americans.
Upon my appointment as the 17th president of Bloomfield College in New Jersey, I became the first woman and first person of color to hold this position. This, while an epic honor, surprised me, given that Bloomfield College is a Predominantly Black Institution (PBI), a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), and a Minority Serving Institution (MSI). Bloomfield College is the only four-year institution to hold PBI, HSI, and MSI designations in New Jersey. At long last, the College has a leader reflective of the majority of the student body, and I am on a mission to have PBIs be better understood.
One of the biggest issues PBIs face is a lack of funding. At Bloomfield College, we’re approaching this issue with creative solutions.
PBIs are colleges or universities that meet a number of criteria, including:
PBIs are essential to the social mobility of Black students, yet, even with a federal designation, we struggle. You might have heard that Bloomfield College recently announced a merger with Montclair State University that will enable Bloomfield to continue to educate students who are often historically excluded from higher education. Other PBIs around the country are in the same boat and may not be as fortunate to find a strategic partner as we did. So, what will happen? Students and the economy will be detrimentally impacted.
Bloomfield College is recognized as one of the most diverse national liberal arts colleges in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. As a PBI, as well as an HSI and MSI, the College plays a crucial role in bringing diversity into the state’s workforce. It provides Black and Latino students with access to higher education, empowers them culturally, and equips them with the education, skills, networks, and role models necessary for successful careers. By nurturing a diverse pool of talented individuals, Bloomfield contributes to a more inclusive and representative workforce.
A diverse workforce brings numerous advantages to a state. It fosters innovation, broadens skill sets, improves decision-making, enhances customer understanding, boosts employee engagement, and promotes social responsibility. Embracing diversity is not only the right thing to do but also a strategic move that can lead to long-term success and prosperity for businesses and the state as a whole. In fact, a large percentage of Bloomfield students remain in the state post-graduation.
Predominantly Black Institutions need to be protected at all costs! This is something I speak about often. PBIs continue to change lives across the country, but this mission must be funded.
PBIs, unlike Historically Black Colleges and Universities, cannot obtain historic charter status. Thus, they will never be recognized as an HBCU.
The CARES Act allocated $447 million to 96 HBCUs, while 83 PBIs received just $18 million. Why is there such a tremendous disparity when we serve the same racial demographic and, arguably, a needier student population?
Money from donors continues to flood into HBCUs, especially following the resurgence in social justice advocacy that began in 2020. In fact, Forbes called 2020 “The Year of the HBCU.” That same year, PBIs, along with all higher education institutions, were experiencing the financial fallout of the pandemic. I wonder if we would have seen an increase in philanthropic support had those donors known that there are also 100+ PBIs in the country.
Not everyone thrives in larger institutions; many yearn for a more personalized, inclusive environment, one bursting with connection. Without mission and identity recognition and support, PBIs will never be able to unlock their full potential—or may even close their doors—and students of color may be forced to give up on their dreams of a college degree or enroll in a college not built to support their unique needs. Being at a PBI contributes to their success.
When you invest in PBIs, you invest in students, and you invest in your state. For example, Bloomfield College students are not an export commodity. New Jersey may be the nation’s top exporter of college students, but Bloomfield College students are an extraordinary anomaly in this regard. They stay and work and build their families in the state. They have roots in New Jersey and often tend to their New Jersey gardens and become pillars in their neighborhoods. They add value back to New Jersey. All of this culminates in an improved economy for our state.
For me, there’s nothing more fulfilling than watching my students walk across the stage at Commencement and seeing a dream fulfilled right before my eyes. Bloomfield College students are often first-generation students, and the pride in their parents’, grandparents’, siblings’, and their own children’s smiles is palpable. You just know that their lives have instantly shifted in an upward direction once they’ve earned a college degree.
PBIs, like HBCUs, provide a supportive space for students of color. PBIs offer access and opportunity. PBIs like Bloomfield College rank at the top of social mobility lists for a reason.
It is no secret that systemic elements of segregation, classism, and inequity still exist in higher education. Real change takes a collective. EVERYONE needs to be involved. We can and do advocate for ourselves, sure, but we need allies. We need to feel seen and supported by larger institutions.
Say it with me!
PBIs must be protected at all costs, given national attention, and funded in the way these institutions and their students deserve to be supported!
Say this with me even louder!
We belong in this space. We belong in higher education. We belong here.
In recognizing the value of Bloomfield College to the state, Montclair State University stepped up as a partner institution to form a strategic relationship that will ensure that Bloomfield can continue to carry out its vital mission for the long term. This is an excellent example of how collaboration and innovation between two higher education institutions can turn a challenge into an opportunity.
With the approval of the Boards of Trustees of Bloomfield College and Montclair State University, in November 2022, President Jonathan GS Koppell and I signed an Agreement and Plan of Merger, advancing plans to create “Bloomfield College of Montclair State University.” Pending accreditor, regulatory, and other third-party approvals, the two institutions are working toward a merger completion date of June 30, 2023.
For Bloomfield students, the planned merger means a lower tuition and fee structure and expanded student life and academic opportunities. The planned Bloomfield College of Montclair State University will continue to provide a transformative educational experience in a small, supportive setting with the resources of a doctoral research university. Meanwhile, Bloomfield staff and faculty will have access to Montclair State University resources to better support the student community.
Both institutions are committed to providing access to high-quality educational experiences to students who are often marginalized. By joining together, the two schools will make an even greater impact on the communities they serve. This strategic relationship serves as a national model of innovation and collaboration.
It is wonderful to be welcomed into the fold of Montclair State University.
Submitted by Marcheta P. Evans, Ph.D., President, Bloomfield College
Marcheta P. Evans is a professor, counselor, and academic administrator. She is currently the 17th President of Bloomfield College in Bloomfield, New Jersey, the state’s only four-year Predominantly Black Institution (PBI), Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), and Minority Serving Institution (MSI). She is the first woman and first African American to hold the position. She is currently the only woman of color serving as president of a four-year institution of higher education in New Jersey.
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