Senate Passes Pryor Initiative to Expand Online Education Opportunities for Minority Students
Senator Mark Pryor today announced his legislation to expand online education opportunities at minority colleges and universities passed the Senate as part of the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008.
Pryor said his measure will help Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), as well as other minority serving institutions, to develop cost-effective technology networks that improve education opportunities for minorities. Pryor's initiative provides $4.5 million to fund a pilot program for nine institutions, which he hopes to build on in the future using "lessons learned" about how to develop and implement such programs for other institutions. Pryor envisions the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Arkansas Baptist or Philander Smith as ideal candidates for the pilot program.
"Many potential students, including working parents, want to pursue a college degree but simply don't have the time or means to travel to and from classes. Earning a degree through online courses could open doors for these individuals," Pryor said. "My legislation covers the start up and program costs, while allowing schools to focus more on outreach and educating. I can see UABP, Arkansas Baptist or Philander Smith turning these new resources into a great opportunity for the communities they serve."
Pryor said HBCUs graduate nearly one-quarter of African Americans who earn undergraduate degrees and graduate 75 percent more of their African American students than other schools do. Arkansas HBCU alumni include Lottie Shackelford, former mayor of Little Rock and Wiley Branton, civil rights activist and attorney. In addition, Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ed Bradley, Justice Thurgood Marshall and Oprah Winfrey are also graduates of HBCUs.