Students lobby NC lawmakers to support HBCUs

Dozens of students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in North Carolina took part in a lobby day at the NC Legislature on Wednesday. Their goal was to protect voting rights and highlight the vital role that HBCU schools play in the state.

Organized by the nonpartisan Common Cause NC, students participating in the lobby day attend Shaw University, St. Augustine’s University, NC Central University, Fayetteville State University, Winston-Salem State University, Bennett College and NC A&T State University.

Students met with state lawmakers to voice concerns about policies that impact their campuses and affect minority Millennials, including voting access, tuition rates and HBCU representation on the UNC Board of Governors.

“As HBCU students, we want people to know that our schools add value and diversity to the state’s workforce and are an asset to North Carolina’s economy,” said Hakeem Dykes, a former HBCU Democracy Fellow with Common Cause NC. Dykes noted that nationally, over half of all African-Americans with a professional degree graduated from an HBCU.

In addition to expressing the important role of HBCUs, students urged lawmakers to oppose any effort to suppress voter participation.

“It’s important for student turnout that North Carolina offers same-day voter registration, 17 days of early voting and no voter ID requirement,” said Alyssa Canty, college outreach coordinator with Common Cause NC. “Last year’s presidential election had low Millennial turnout, which could be due in part to confusion over changes to the voter ID law and the early voting schedule.”

Canty said that having only a few voting sites open for the first week of early voting confused both students and community members. She said it is critical that legislators encourage state and county elections boards to have voting sites open near college campuses.