Changes are needed on both sides of the table to address the chronic underfunding facing historically black colleges and universities, some experts say following a report showing the wide funding disparity among historically black colleges and universities and their Ivy League counterparts.
While the biggest challenge remains redirecting philanthropic funds to HBCUs, they say, HBCU leaders must also improve promotion of their product through tools such as social media and podcasts — even if financial challenges make these more difficult tasks.
“HBCUs are slow to change,” said Crystal deGregory, who researches HBCUs as an associate professor of history at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. “A lot of the stories they did, even knowingly, could be seen as old-fashioned and definitely falling behind the dynamism of historically white institutions.”
The recently published study, conducted by the philanthropic research group Candid in partnership with ABFE, a non-profit organization that encourages investment in black communities, found that funding for HBCUs from major US foundations has dropped 30% between 2002 and 2019, with the average Ivy League institution hosting 178 times. more foundation funding than the average HBCU.
Funding for HBCUs rose from $65 million in 2002 to $45 million in 2019, according to the study. From 2015 to 2019, the nation’s 99 HBCUs received $303 million, compared to the combined $5.5 billion given to the eight Ivy League schools over the same period.
The gap reflects a long-standing disparity
Susan Taylor Batten, president and CEO of the AFBE, said while the researchers weren’t surprised by the results, they were alarmed by the enormity of the disparity.
“Philanthropy generally funds Black-led nonprofits disproportionately less than other similarly situated organizations,” Batten said.
While funding for HBCUs has increased dramatically amid a national toll on racial inequality following the March 2020 killing of George Floyd, observers do not expect such levels to continue. According to the researchers’ preliminary data, funding for the HCBU soared to $249 million — a 453% peak — in 2020, including a combined $550 million granted to 22 HBCUs by philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
“I think it will be short-lived,” said Robert Palmer, department chair and associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Howard University. “It’s about the moment.”
Lodriguez Murray, vice president of public policy and government affairs at UNCF, the nation’s largest private supporter of black students, called the increase “a drop in the ocean.” The need is still extremely great.
Succeed despite challenges
According to UNCF, HBCUs make up about 3% of all US colleges and universities, accounting for 80% of black judges, 50% of black doctors, and 50% of black lawyers. Research shows that black HBCU graduates earn $900,000 more over their lifetime than black graduates from predominantly white institutions or black workers without a college degree.
The authors said the study clarified the impact foundation funding could have if redirected to HBCUs.
“HBCUs have so far succeeded with limited resources, underscoring their value, power and potential,” they wrote in their summary.
In the meantime, chronic underfunding is impacting everything from their infrastructure to the availability of financial aid, Palmer said.
“If you have a healthy endowment, you can give more scholarships to needy students who show academic promise,” he said. “You are able to attract and retain the brightest students, as well as key faculty. Without these resources, it really puts the HBCUs at a disadvantage.
Additionally, deGregory said, historically white institutions are now scrambling to attract the kind of talent that was once only welcome at HBCUs.
“They are going after all the best students, athletes and researchers, including those who are black, so this presents a real challenge for the future of these institutions,” she said. “How do you compete? »
Social media can be part of the solution
Because most big funders and funding institutions tend to be white, deGregory said, “the people in the seats at those tables of power must themselves want to do a better job. Black and other minority-serving institutions can do little when funders go along with the good old fundraising club of their alma maters.
Part of the blame lies with HBCUs, experts said, who have been slow to adapt to technology to promote themselves, whether through social media or even just a vibrant web presence.
Palmer said while leaders such as Howard University’s Wayne Frederick, Morgan State University’s David Wilson, and Helene Gayle, president of Spelman College, have set good examples, HBCUs “need to be more intentional to work more collectively as a group”.
“HBCUs are known for doing more with less, but they shouldn’t have to, given the impact they have on society,” he continued. “They’re producing doctors, lawyers, judges and teachers, and we should be working to make sure they’re funded equally and that business takes notice.”
Contributor: The Associated Press