HCBUs are the main driver of moving low-income black people into the middle class.
Despite this remarkable return on investment, the disparity in financial support for HBCUs and predominantly white colleges (PWIs) continues to widen. The United Negro College Fund calculated that between 2003 and 2015, the federal funding gap between HCBUs and PWIs actually quadrupled, from about $400 to $1,600 per student.
This cannot go on. HCBUs have a proven track record of doing more with less – but accepting less can no longer be an option.
There has been a recent increase in support for HBCUs, and some state legislatures and major corporations are rethinking their strategies for investing in HBCUs, but the magnitude of the gaps requires substantial and sustained federal action.
Consider these disparities: Of the $42 billion in federal research and development funding awarded in fiscal year 2018, only $400 million — less than 1% — went to HBCUs, according to research by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), and that figure has gone down. 13% the following year.
TMCF Chief of Staff David Sheppard notes that one predominantly white institution, Johns Hopkins University, received nearly seven times as much research funding as the 101 HBCUs combined.
The fund’s research suggests that the average HBCU needs $87 million to maintain, repair or renovate poorly lit classrooms and cramped, outdated labs. HBCUs’ access to infrastructure financing, credit and debt cancellation remains far below that of their predominantly white peers.
Colleges and universities are often able to meet their financial needs by drawing on endowment funds, that is, donated funds invested on behalf of the institution. But here, the disparity is also extreme: About 100 American universities have endowments of more than $1 billion — and none of them are HBCUs. Only seven HBCUs have endowments above $100 million.
Despite these drawbacks, the United Negro College Fund calculates that HBCUs improve the economic mobility of their students at twice the rate of predominantly white institutions. They achieve these results with tuition 30% lower on average than PWIs, while serving nearly double the proportion of Pell Grant-eligible students and significantly more first-generation students than any other sector in the world. higher education in the United States.
The President’s Advisory Council on HBCUs has been tasked with advancing the HBCU initiative announced by President Biden in September, with the goals of increasing HBCU’s ability to provide the highest quality, low-cost education. to his students. We focus on raising public awareness of the success of the HBCU model and why it is more important than ever to fully invest in such an important part of America’s future.
Our immediate objectives are to:
1. Fund technological and physical improvements that match state-of-the-art learning environments in higher education. This includes maintaining, repairing or renovating thousands of dilapidated classrooms and obsolete laboratories, which could reduce historic inequalities.
2. Develop HBCU’s research and contracting capacity in the public and private sectors through a variety of interdisciplinary initiatives, with a particular focus on projects impacting people of color and low-resource communities.
3. Make HBCUs even more affordable for low-income families with streamlined freshman through college tuition and financial aid.
4. Preserve and expand HBCUs – public and private – with a particular focus on smaller institutions, which provide continuing education and professional training to an even larger population of students.
The Biden administration has already invested $5.8 billion in the HBCU community. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona recently proposed increasing the maximum Pell Grant by $2,175 and investing $752 million to “build institutional capacity” for HBCUs and other institutions serving children. minorities and/or low-income. This is an important step, but it cannot be the last.
This is a bipartisan issue: Democrats and Republicans agree on the need to contain higher education costs while improving outcomes. But real action will only come with public support. That’s why we’re taking our case out, demonstrating to American families, employers, potential investors and political leaders that the HBCU model for containing operating costs and reducing student debt without compromising quality should become the national standard for higher education.
Clearly, there is work to be done, but HBCUs should no longer be expected to do more with less.