l-r; Dr. Mark Hardy (TSU), Kelly Sharpe (TSU), Lawrence Hall (MMC) and Rev. Rep. Harold M. Love watch as Gov. Bill Haslam signs the Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In background is Sen. Reginald Tate (Memphis). Photo submitted

By Lucas Johnson

TSU Media Relations

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University participated in the ceremonial signing of historic legislation that will benefit HBCUs across the state.

Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday signed the “Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities” that creates an office within the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to focus on HBCUs, public and private.

“Governor Bill Haslam’s signing of the HBCU Initiative is an historic moment for the State of Tennessee and speaks to his ongoing commitment to higher education,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “Funding this legislation sends a clear message on the important role Tennessee State University and the other historically black colleges and universities play in serving thousands of families, and our global impact.”

According to language in the legislation, it will “focus on ways to strengthen the capacity of historically black colleges and universities to provide the highest quality of education, increase opportunities for these institutions to participate in and benefit from state programs, and ensure that Tennessee has the highest proportion of college graduates from HBCUs in the country.”

A key component of the initiative is a director’s position that will allow a person to be a liaison who fosters a relationship with lawmakers to make them aware of education accomplishments, services and needs of the state’s HBCUs.

The legislation was sponsored by Tennessee Sen. Reginald Tate of Memphis and State Rep. Harold Love, Jr., whose district includes TSU.

Love said the measure is the “first in the nation where the state has said we’re concerned about all HBCUs.”

“Now the state will be focusing on increasing graduation rates, enrollment rates and retention rates at all of  our HBCUs,” Love said.

Besides TSU, Tennessee’s other HBCUs are: American Baptist College, Fisk University, Lane College, LeMoyne-Owen College, Knoxville College, and Meharry Medical College.