Ford in leadership position as NC legislatures launch first bipartisan, bicameral caucus focused on HBCUs

Published 12:10 am Thursday, February 9, 2023

RALEIGH — The state legislature has put itself on the map by launching the North Carolina State Legislative Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus, the first bipartisan, bicameral state HBCU caucus in the nation.
The two co-chairs of the caucus from the General Assembly are Rep. Zack Hawkins (D-31) and Rep. Jon Hardister (R-59). On the Senate side, Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-28) and Sen. Carl Ford (R-33), who represents Rowan and Stanly counties, will be the co-chairs. Hawkins and Robinson are both Black Democrats; Hardister and Ford are white Republicans. The group will hold its first meeting next week.
“This is an opportunity to come together in a bipartisan nature to ensure that North Carolina’s students have what they need to be prepared to enter the workforce and support their communities,” Ford said.
Ford explained he wanted to join the caucus because he thinks HBCU and other smaller colleges can get ignored. He also wants to help bring more specialty education to the colleges and cited Elizabeth City State University, which now has one of the top pilot training programs. Ford said that program has helped turn the college around after it was on the verge of closing.
“Of course the big universities like Chapel Hill and N.C. State, they got plenty of money. But some of the small ones do not and it’s not just about money but it’s money plus what we can do to help them in growing or maybe specializing like Elizabeth City State has done,” Ford said.
North Carolina has 10 HBCUs across the state, including Livingstone College in Salisbury.
Introduced by two members of the North Carolina General Assembly and two members of the North Carolina Senate, the goal of the new caucus is to “educate and engage members of the North Carolina General Assembly in a bipartisan and bicameral manner with a focus on the successes and benefits of the state’s 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” Another goal is address challenges that impede HBCU’s abilities to provide higher quality education to students. The Hunt Institute, a national education nonprofit organization in Cary, will provide technical support to the caucus.
These are the goals announced by the caucus:
• Guide policymakers in highlighting successes and current challenges for North Carolina’s 10 HBCUs.
• Draft bipartisan legislation to address individual and statewide needs of HBCUs.
• Ensure HBCU graduates have access to career and economic opportunity.
• Identify opportunities to increase direct engagement between North Carolina legislators and HBCU chancellors/presidents, faculty, staff, students, and alumni both at the General Assembly and across North Carolina.
The caucus is modeled on the United States Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus, which was founded by North Carolina Congresswoman Alma Adams in 2015 and currently has over 100 members.