Just nine months ago, radio personality Tom Joyner launched HBCUsonline.com as an education services company focusing on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Now he has just announced a partnership with Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in offering college degrees online. Tennessee State and Texas Southern University have joined forces in doing the same. FAMU is the nation’s largest HBCU with 13,274 students and Tennessee State, which was founded 85 years ago, is best known for its Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Additionally, HBCUsOnline is also offering professional certificates, from basic business skills to advanced certifications for information technology (IT) professionals. This latest venture is part of Joyner’s continuing efforts to strengthen HBCUs. His foundation, the Tom Joyner Foundation, has raised more than $60 million to help students remain enrolled in HBCUs.
“Tom Joyner is passionate about HBCUs and believes they offer a nurturing approach to educating students that is invaluable. With the growth in online education and distance learning, Joyner wants to make sure Black colleges are here now and have a future well into the 21st century,” says spokesperson Neil Foote. “In fact, many Black students are already opting to take classes at other online degree programs. HBCUsOnline is our opportunity to provide these students the opportunity to get degrees from real schools that have great traditions. We not only help HBCUs compete in the online degree space through marketing and consulting help, but we provide support to individual students to help them get enrolled and successfully graduate.”
Such partnerships may be vital in keeping struggling HBCUs financially viable. According to some reports, more than 5.6 million students are taking courses online. And through HBCUsOnline, HBCUs will be able to reach many more potential students. In fact, since last September, more than 150,000 adult student prospects visited HBCUsOnline.com. “Tom Joyner has worked with these black colleges for more than a dozen years through his non-profit – the Tom Joyner Foundation. He and his team are working with these three schools to promote their programs, and talking to others as well,” says Foote. “Online education is growing exponentially. Black colleges need to be part of this growing trend because it just makes sense. One, some of the HBCUs have excellent undergraduate and graduate degree programs that will help students get a promotion or find a job. Two, online degree programs at HBCUs allow those students who may not be able to physically relocate to the city of an HBCU to enroll in classes and graduate with a degree from that HBCU. In the long run, these HBCUs can extend their long tradition and reach students around the U.S. and the world, increasing the pool of students and generating greatly needed financial resources to ensure the colleges’ futures,” he says.
The online process will be user friendly, and hopefully attract more students. Enrollment for the fall courses is now open. “HBCUsOnline is helping these black colleges promote their courses and driving potential students to these schools,” explains Foote. “Once students register through HBCUsOnline, all students have to apply to the individual Black colleges which will review and make the final decision on their acceptance. All coursework will be taken at these Black colleges while HBCUsOnline will be available to provide student support to help them complete the program. All of the schools will provide the academic advising to make sure the students are enrolled in the correct classes to successfully complete their degrees,” he says.
With the possibilities of this new partnership, HBCUsOnline is already looking to expand. Says Foote, ”Conversations are ongoing with HBCUs. There will be more announcements in the months ahead. ”