In agreement with Jones, Sharon Stringer, PhD, incoming president says retention of students is very important. During her next two years as president of the organization she has plans to focus on student financial issues. “We have work to do,” she said during her inaugural address. “Sixty nine percent of Black students leave school because of lack of finances.” She also indicated that because of the lack of financial resources that students are borrowing money at high rates. “Pennsylvania student loan debt is the second highest in the nation. Students are $30,000 in debt when they graduate.”
The PBCOHE was started by the late Honorable K. Leroy Irvis former Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives with the mission to provide programs and services which help ensure that the post-secondary educational needs and aspirations of African-Americans in particular are met, and to work in concert with members of other underrepresented groups in the Commonwealth. Consisting of African-Americans and other underrepresented professionals from the public and private sector, education, business, social services, law, and government agencies the group focuses on key issues affecting the future of higher education and provides input to the various sectors of government, education and community leaders that impact the lives of underrepresented groups at Pennsylvania colleges and universities. PBCOHE also provides support and professional development opportunities through its scholarship program, the annual conference, the Robert D. Lynch Student Leadership Development Institute, the Institute for Educational Management and Leadership and the Pennsylvania Black Conference on Higher Education Journal.
Considered a visionary, mentor and friend of PBCOHE, President Emeritus of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Frank G. Pogue, PhD president of Grambling State University served as guest speaker during the awards banquet. Pointing out the significance of organizations like PBCOHE, Pogue said, “The mission of our group is the same as all Black organizations, to create opportunities for people that don’t have.”
“Two of the oldest HBCUs (historically Black Colleges and Universities) are located in Pennsylvania,” he said meaning Lincoln and Cheyney Universities. “But this group has created HBCUs on White campuses. Black students no matter what they are going through know to come to us when they are dealing with situations. The important role Black professors’ play on campuses is being role models. You play an important role on your campuses.”
The first African-American serving as president of a traditionally White college or university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pogue was president of Edinboro University for 11 years. He is credited as the catalyst behind the grievance-to-graciousness transformation on the Edinboro campus facilitated by his student-centered approach to campus and community leadership and his open and nurturing leadership style. Under his leadership he was responsible for increasing graduate enrollment, improving campus facilities, fundraising and his campus-wide contributions to the growth and advancement of academic programs. Upon his retirement the university named its newly constructed student center in his honor.
Recognized as a highly respected educator and administrator with a wealth of experience as an agent of positive institutional change and advancement, Pogue is the eighth President of the famed Grambling State University.
As newly elected president of PBCOHE, Stringer a communication professor and an assistant department chair at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania says she is honored to follow the vision that K. Leroy Irvis has started. Observing where the group has come from and what has to be done, using a baseball analogy she said she views the organization as being in the fifth inning and that the team has to do what needs to be done to meet the needs of the students. “I need the commitment of the group and we have to rally around the next generation.”
The group is now planning for its annual retreat in June and the Robert D. Lynch Student Leadership Development Institute in November.