A bevy of historically black colleges and universities are hemorrhaging too many students while revenue sources have dried up to the point where it threatens their very survival. Legendary radio host and famed HBCU advocate Tom Joyner will launch an ambitious online education initiative to stem the bleeding at the institutions, bring back throngs of black students and, most importantly, help many more of them graduate.

“We need to help our students, — not only K-12 — but as the President said, we need more college graduates. And to have more college graduates, we need to do something about our college system, especially HBCUs. You know I love HBCUs,” Joyner said at the National Urban League Centennial Convention in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. “So what we’re doing is we’re going to change things in 2010; we’re going to launch HBCUs online in September. We’re going to compete with the University of Phoenix and the rest of the for-profit [colleges]. That’s where most of our black students are going.”

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Over 500,000 students attend the University of Phoenix; a full third of them are African Americans, mostly adults, Joyner noted. But most of them don’t graduate. That’s going to change under the Joyner plan, he said.

“One thing that we do know from a nurturing environment that you get from an HBCU, is that we want you to graduate and be successful in life,” he said. “So what we’re going to do is we’re going to take our HBCUs and we’re going to market them. We’re going to expand their online capabilities, and those [schools] that don’t, we will help them until we have our students back, until we can take care of our students at HBCUs. So, I think that’s the greatest challenge of 2010 and beyond.”

President Obama spoke at the National Urban League’s conference earlier in the day and outlined his multi-pronged plan to overhaul America’s failing public education system. Joyner said his plan will help catapult the U.S. back to the pinnacle of the student-graduation rates in the industrialized nations.

“As the President said today, we wanted our students to be No. 1 [in the world] in college graduates and right now we’re No. 12. Well, we can’t reach our goal doing the same thing that we have been doing,” Joyner said. “We’ve got to meet people on our terms. Gone are the days where black people just went to schools and some graduated. People don’t have time; they’ve got jobs, they’ve got bills, so online education is the future.” —terry shropshire

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