According to The Choice, a blog hosted by The New York Times, “From the debut of ‘The Cosby Show’ in 1984 until the end of ‘A Different World’ in 1993, American higher education grew by 16.8 percent. During the same time period, historically black colleges and universities grew by 24.3 percent — 44 percent better than all of higher education.” I grew up during this time period. Influenced by the campus life and education depicted on those shows, and what I saw when visiting my oldest sister and brother as they attended separate historically black colleges (also called HBCU’s), it felt good and natural when I enrolled in an HBCU.
Nationwide, there are over 100 historically black colleges and universities. HBCU’s were erected to educate an African American population previously denied the right to an education under the law. Among those institutions bearing this designation is Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD, from which I am proud to have graduated.
Upon earning my degree, I confidently approached interviews and accepted teaching positions where I was glad to share my positive college experience with students. While many of them were receptive to considering researching and attending an HBCU, many of the students were reluctant, believing degrees from an HBCU were not as highly regarded in the work place. To help assuage their fears, I discussed my experiences in displaying my degree to potential employers, and assured them a degree from an HBCU is well respected.
As a career coach at American Public University System, an online institution, potential and enrolled students express concerns to me about whether their degrees will be taken seriously in the work place. When asked these questions, I respond by saying there are over 6,000 post-secondary institutions in the US varying in size, location, and academic discipline. Most employers are not willing to limit their pool of applicants to only interviewing candidates from the 8 Ivy League institutions.
I advise people contemplating attending an online institution to identify their field of interest and to determine whether there is any accreditation required to validate the program. If a program-specific accreditation does exists, to ensure they choose an accredited institution in that field. Once you are enrolled and completing courses, strive to intern with at least two companies over the course of your academic career. These internships offer practical experience, which will prove invaluable in your job search. Finally, take advantage of the resources you have available by consulting with the office of career services at your school. Completing these steps should help you feel confident when competing for positions.