Appointed by President Barack Obama as the executive director of the White House Initiative for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in 2013, George Cooper is faced with a tremendous challenge: finding creative ways, with limited federal funds and scant support from Republicans on Capitol Hill, to uplift Black institutions of higher learning that are struggling to survive.

Many HBCUs grapple with lack of funding from tuition costs because of low enrollment, dwindling alumni financial gifts and cuts in federal funding, so these schools have difficulty paying basic bills and salaries for teachers.  The New York Times recently reported that Black colleges with 1,000 or fewer students are particularly struggling. In fact, Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., once a flagship institution in the HBCU hierarchy, has fallen on hard times, with only 645 students currently enrolled. Some Black educators believe that more HBCUs could be on the brink of extinction if someone doesn’t throw out a much-needed lifeline.

Read the remainder of this article in the May 2014 issue of EBONY Magazine.