Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Although historically Black colleges and universities represent only 3% of higher education institutions, HBCUs produce nearly 20% of Black college graduates. When compared to Black students at similar institutions, HBCU students are more likely to graduate and earn higher wages than Black students at similar non-HBCUs. But compared to predominately white colleges, HBCUs are expected to do more with less funding. Of the $42 billion in federal research and development funds awarded in 2018, less than 1% went to HBCUs. And because white people have higher net worth, earn higher wages and are more likely to inherit generational wealth, HBCUs get a dollar for every $127.50 a white college receives in endowment funds.
The HBCU Transformation Project — a collaboration between the United Negro College Fund, Thurgood Marshall College Fund and Partnership for Education Advancement launched in 2022 — is trying to correct these disparities. On Tuesday, UNCF executive director Ed Smith-Lewis sat down with “- Daily” to explain how a collective of philanthropists pooling their resources to solve “problems that limit economic and social mobility,” planned to address these issues.
Smith-Lewis announced that the HBCU Transformation Project received a $124 million investment from Blue Meridian Partners to drive systemic improvements among HBCUs nationwide. At present, the 40 HBCUs that are currently part of the project will use the money to focus on high-return initiatives, including building technology infrastructure, curricular and administrative strategies, staff development, training and procurement.
“[W]e recognize that our institutions must evolve to give future generations the educational experiences they need,” said UNCF President and CEO Michael L. Lomax in a statement. “The Transformation Project will ensure that HBCUs continue to be drivers of economic mobility and champions for racial equity long into the future.”
With the donation, Blue Meridian Partners increased its total HBCU investment to $184 million after an initial phase earned positive results. “With this latest investment, we hope to accelerate the pace of change and strengthen these vital institutions and the students they serve at scale,” said Jim Shelton, Blue Meridian Partners’ President and Chief Investment and Impact Officer in a statement.
During the next three years, the HBCU Transformation Project aims to reduce the growing wealth gaps between HBCUs and other higher education institutions, while increasing the enrollment and number of graduates at HBCUs, changes that they project will yield a $1.1 billion increase in Black wealth.
Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in September.
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