Last week, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin visited Norfolk State University as part of his tour to see firsthand the tremendous impact and assess the very real needs of Virginia’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). This is truly exciting, as I believe a Governor Youngkin is precisely what Virginia and our HBCUs need.
Historically Black colleges and universities have played a critical role in the fabric of America’s culture and Virginia’s education system for 150 years.
The first Black elected governor in the United States, Virginia’s own Doug Wilder, is a graduate of Virginia Union University and Howard University Law School. He is a living testament to the incredible historical impact of Virginia’s HBCUs.
Much of my own life has been shaped by HBCUs. I am a proud alumna of Hampton University. I also founded The Gloucester Institute to train and nurture college-aged leaders in the African American community, many of whom study at or have graduated from an HBCU.
Virginia’s HBCUs have a longstanding legacy of building tomorrow’s leaders, and that’s why we must elect a governor who will invest in them today.
That’s why I’m voting for Glenn Youngkin.
Governor Wilder and his former Secretary of Education, Jim Dyke, recently wrote an open letter to Governor Ralph Northam and the General Assembly leadership asking them to allocate a portion of the over $4.3 billion in federal dollars coming to Virginia through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to HBCUs in the Commonwealth.
However, Democrats turned their backs on that request and ignored Governor Wilder’s wise counsel.
Funding for HBCUs is commonsense, and it should be common ground.
Mr. Youngkin is already showing Virginia’s HBCUs are a priority for him by spending one of the most precious commodities any candidate has—time. He has visited Hampton University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, and Norfolk State – I will bet that Virginia University of Lynchburg is on-deck.
These visits bring a refreshing change from status quo political photo ops and platitudes. Mr. Youngkin has come to listen, not dictate. He wants to partner with the HBCUs as governor. He even took the time to invest in our students by teaching a business class at Virginia State.
Virginia is blessed to have five HBCUs. My alma mater, Hampton University, is ranked among the top 10 HBCUs nationally. We are proud of that ranking—but we are working towards all of Virginia’s HBCUs making that list soon. Mr. Youngkin is determined to help us make that happen.
Under a Governor Youngkin, there will be a partnership between his administration, HBCU leadership, student bodies, and community leaders to meet the needs of the schools and the needs of communities of color.
I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, and neither does Mr. Youngkin. We will collaborate to meet the unique needs of each school, whether that’s infrastructure, scholarships, technology, or expanding community partnerships.
Mr. Youngkin has shared with me that one of his goals, when he’s governor, is to empower parents in Virginia. This includes starting 20 Innovation Charter Schools to serve K-12 students in Virginia. These schools will partner with the public school system, institutions of higher learning, and the private sector. He wants to facilitate partnerships between HBCUs and these schools to improve education outcomes in the Commonwealth. In addition, Mr. Youngkin wants to work with the HBCU leadership to increase the number of graduates and address staff shortages in critical professions such as teachers and nurses.
In disciplines other than teaching, a Governor Youngkin will create more opportunities for HBCU graduates through career fairs, apprenticeships, and partnerships with Virginia businesses. He is confident we can raise the average salaries and job placement opportunities for graduates, so they have even brighter futures ahead.
Working together with Mr. Youngkin, I am confident that a Governor Youngkin will make a sustained commitment to our historically Black colleges and universities because he knows HBCUs are a tremendous asset to our communities of color and our Commonwealth overall.
• Kay Cole James is the Former Secretary of Health, Virginia, and a former Virginia State Board of Education member.
Correction: A previous version of this column included an illustration misspelling the acronym commonly used to refer to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
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