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How HBCUs Are Helping Reduce the Racial Wealth Gap

How HBCUs Are Helping Reduce
the Racial Wealth Gap

Black households have a fraction of the wealth of white households, leaving them in a much more precarious financial situation when a crisis strikes, such as the pandemic. Wealth allows households to rebound from a financial emergency, invest in their children’s education, start a business, relocate for better opportunities and buy a house. Unfortunately, the wealth gap between white and black Americans has not decreased in the last 50 years. In 2019, the median wealth (without defined-benefit pensions) of Black households in the United States was $24,100, compared with $189,100 for white households. Homeownership contributing significantly to household wealth was 72% for whites compared to 42% for blacks. And the reasons for the black-white wealth gap are not a mystery. They have resulted from centuries of policies that have systematically disadvantaged Black Americans’ ability to build, maintain, and pass on wealth.

Research shows that one of the proven ways to narrow this gap is through higher education, especially for those who graduate in the STEM, legal and medical fields, which offer higher-paying career opportunities. Black professionals have relied on HBCUs more than any ot

her higher education institution for over 180 years. They graduate 80% of Black judges, 50% of Black doctors, 50% of Black lawyers, 40% of all Black US Congress members, and award 24% of all bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields. And while HBCUs have received record funding over the last two years, with more than 6.5 billion allocated by the Federal government, that doesn’t begin to make up for decades of neglect.

Our Money Matters, a free platform to help HBCU students and community residents get on the path to financial wellness, offers six reasons why minority institutions need our continued advocacy.

  1. HBCUs have a 34% mobility rate of moving their students from the bottom 40% in household income into the top 60%. That is double the national average and five times more than Ivy institutions.
  2. Endowments for HBCUs are a fraction of comparable non-HBCUs, with an average of $15,000 per student compared to $410,000. Endowments are typically used to support scholarships, facility upgrades, and faculty hiring and retention. The difference is significant if you compare Howard University, sometimes referred to as the Harvard of HBCUs, and the HBCU with the highest endowment. Harvard’s endowment is about $42 billion, while Howard’s is around $700 million—less than a 50th of Harvard’s endowment. There is not one HBCU with an endowment of over a billion dollars, while there are over 100 white institutions.
  3. The pandemic required HBCUs to shift funds to remote learning. Many students needed computers and access to Wi-Fi, and schools needed to upgrade their technology infrastructure. Also, many students require student loan debt relief as well. This meant that schools diverted crucial funds from maintenance and other infrastructure investments. Nearly two-thirds of the surveyed schools said they had more than 5 million in deferred maintenance.
  4. Private donations and grants are significant funding sources for all higher education institutions. However, it accounts for a small portion of total revenue for HBCUs compared to non-HBCUs – 17% versus 25.8%. And because much private funding comes with certain restrictions, it means less flexibility for HBCUs to address pressing needs. And when HBCUs must turn to other sources for funding, they face higher fees to borrow money than white institutions. For example, a Black minority-serving institution would have to pay underwriters $35,000 more for a $30 million bond than a white university. In addition, historically black colleges and universities in the U.S. have been underfunded for decades, with billions of dollars in state funding diverted by lawmakers for other purposes, according to higher education experts.
  5. First-generation college students make up 39% of HBCU enrollment, and many rely on student loans. While costs at HBCUs are less than at non-HBCUs, tuition is increasing universally across all institutions. This forces many Blacks to choose between a degree and the accompanying astronomical debt or forgoing college altogether. In fact, in a 2021 nationwide survey of nearly 1,300 Black borrowers conducted by the Education Trust, many questioned whether the debt they incurred was worth it. And yet, Blacks that had a degree were much better equipped to weather the pandemic than those without one.
  6. For faculty members, choosing to work at an HBCU means being unfairly penalized in terms of salary. On average, HBCU faculty earn $18,000 less than those teaching in non-HBCU institutions. HBCU faculty earn about $69,180, compared to $87,385 for faculty in non-HBCUs, making it much more challenging to recruit professors and administrators, especially in expensive cities.

HBCUs have traditionally had to do much more with less. And yet, they have positively impacted society to a far greater degree than the historically meager investments made from private and public sources. HBCUs provide an average of 6,385 jobs in each state and territory where they are located and generate an average of $704.7 million a year in total economic impact. They make up just 3% of higher education institutions in the country, but they educate 10% of all Black college students. And according to recent research, increasing the strength of HBCUs around the U.S. could increase Black worker incomes by about $10 billion, strengthening the economy with $1.2 billion in incremental business profit, additional consumer expenditures of $1 billion, and help to reduce the wealth imbalance.

In conclusion, Black History Month is important for HBCUs as it allows these institutions to celebrate the contributions and achievements of African Americans, recognize the legacy of their institutions, and provide a space for students and faculty to learn and share their perspectives.

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4 Ways Universities Can Use AI to Streamline Operations

4 Ways Universities Can Use
AI to Streamline Operations

As enrollment in higher education continues trending down, colleges and universities need to get creative in order to strengthen their margins and maintain profitability. At the same time, they need to figure out how to improve the student experience to buck enrollment trends.

One way to accomplish these goals is by making smart investments in technology. For example, by investing in artificial intelligence (AI) tools—and AI-powered chatbots in particular—institutions of higher learning can provide their students with better support while empowering their staff to focus on higher-level initiatives and tasks.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at four specific ways AI chatbots can help universities and colleges streamline operations and save money to crystallize profitability in the face of declining enrollment.

1. Reducing call and email volume

When you invest in leading chatbot solutions, you empower students to self-serve information at their own convenience. For example, a student might have a simple question about where to send payment or when enrollment opens for the next semester. When extrapolated across thousands of students and prospective students, however, the ability to answer simple questions can be severely hampered, impacting enrollment and retention, thus delivering a negative student experience. A chatbot can easily answer these types of routine questions in higher volumes, freeing staff from having to respond to the same inquiries over and over again while successfully meeting students’ needs.

A full-featured chatbot solution will be available across channels. Whether someone’s going to the website, calling on the phone, sending a text, or shooting an email over, a bot can answer routine questions. In turn, this saves staffers a great deal of time which can be invested in higher-value activities.

With the time saved by implementing a chatbot, you will be able to repurpose your existing staff to handle the more significant and complex interactions with students. For example, a first-generation prospective student might speak with a financial aid advisor to explain that they really want to go to college but they’re not sure if they’ll be able to afford it and want to know more about their financial aid options. This is the type of conversation you want your staff to have the time to engage in. On the flip side, if a new freshman is curious about where the library is located on campus, the chatbot can provide the library address and a map of campus. The vast majority of student inquiries fall into the latter category, making an omnichannel chatbot essential in providing 24/7 access to resources and information.

Recently, one large state university that had been outsourcing calls and emails to a third-party contact center invested in chatbot technology. Thanks to that investment, they were able to deflect 75 percent of calls and messages by utilizing the bot for tier 1 inquiries. Ultimately, this enabled them to bring their contact center back in-house again, saving a significant amount of money along the way.

Similarly, Broward College saved upward of $500,000 using chatbot technology. At the same time, chatbots helped Temple University reduce call volumes by 50 percent.


2. Streamlining the application process

Ultimately, higher education institutions make money when students enroll in school. This is why it’s so important to build a streamlined, optimal application process that maximizes the chances a prospective student will complete it.

This is another area where chatbots can be particularly helpful. For example, if a student begins the application process but walks away midway through it, an AI chatbot can automatically nudge them: “It’s been 10 days since you looked at your application. Is there anything we can do to help you through this process?”

These automatic reminders require no human involvement. They’re an easy way to increase the likelihood that students will complete their applications, which should translate into better enrollment figures. Additionally, the chatbot can have knowledge of each field within the application, allowing the prospective student to ask questions about how to complete the required field. If the bot’s answer isn’t sufficient, an Admissions Advisor can intervene and provide assistance via live chat, increasing the likelihood of application submission.

3. Increasing availability and accessibility

AI chatbots don’t need to eat, sleep, or take breaks. And that means that they work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whenever students have questions, they can self-serve answers via the chatbot—even when your entire staff is asleep.

This is a godsend for both traditional students and nontraditional ones, like the folks who have full-time jobs and can’t call admissions during the day. At the same time, leading chatbot solutions offer multilingual support. This enables international students to find the information they need easily, too.

Taken together, this increased availability and accessibility translates into better margins because all student populations have access to the information they need when they need it, which strengthens their experience and improves the chances they’ll ultimately enroll.

4. Improving operational efficiency

Higher education, like all other industries, is having a difficult time hiring enough workers to fulfill their missions. Thanks to chatbot technology, colleges and universities can overcome labor shortages by increasing operational efficiency and enabling staff to do more with less.

At a high level, chatbots improve operational efficiency across campus, which improves the staff and student experience. Instead of having to endure long wait times, students can get answers to their questions quickly, increasing satisfaction.

At the same time, staff can handle calls faster and have better-informed conversations when they need to intervene. Rather than being forced to track down information from their colleagues to address student concerns, that runaround is eliminated.

What’s more, because chatbots help provide a smoother application and enrollment process, the yield rate increases. And because the chatbot can also nudge students to make account payments automatically, checks come in faster, accelerating cash flow—all without human intervention.

As you can see, chatbots can have a profound impact on university operations, making life easier for staff and students alike. A simple investment in chatbot technology may be just what your university needs to weather the current storm academia faces.

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Why is Online Education Crucial for Success in the Tech Age

Why is Online Education Crucial for Success in the Tech Age

The world of online education is evolving at a rapid pace. With the tech age upon us, online education has become crucial to success in order to stay up-to-date with technology and trends. The following are the reasons online education is crucial for success in the tech age.

It’s Easier To Create A Network

In online courses, you’ll meet a bunch of people you can later stay in touch with and make valuable contacts. The people over at Learning Revolution will explain how crucial networking is for your online education. Creating these communities online can be easier than in person. Plus, online courses allow you to learn from a variety of people and different backgrounds through online discussions with students or even a video chat session with a professor!

The fact that online education is faster-paced also means it’s easier to create connections. It offers more opportunities for networking as there are so many events going on at once! In the tech age, these skills will help you stand out among other job applicants. You’ll have access to experts who know all about what they teach right away if you need them to. So don’t worry about having anything holding you back when starting your online course today!

You Learn Things Schools Don’t Teach

More often than not, formal education will teach you all about your field, but won’t tell you how to make money with it. And online education is the quickest way to learn how to turn your skills and knowledge into profit.

Some things you’ll learn only online include the following:

  • How to market online
  • How you can make money with your skills
  • How to run a business
  • What you need to make it on your own
  • What the market is saying about your field of work

Schools don’t teach you how to turn your skills into profit. You have to do that research yourself, and it takes time away from studying at school.

It Keeps Up With Modern Trends

Following modern trends is essential in the tech age. By taking online courses, students are able to keep up with modern trends while still being in class and learning valuable skills that will help them later on down the line.

Schools don’t have the capacity to keep up with modern trends. Online courses are created by the online education system to keep up with modern trends and help students learn new skills so they can achieve their dreams in life.

Updating one’s self on things like technology is important for success in this day and age, which makes online classes a key part of any student’s learning experience now that schools don’t have the capacity to do it themselves anymore. Keeping up with modern trends without online classes would be impossible as most jobs require constant updating on current events happening around us every single day.

Online Education Is Constantly Being Upgraded

The online education industry is always developing new online platforms, academic courses, and educational paths to ensure that students continue learning online. Students can now choose from a much wider range of online degree options which are constantly being upgraded with the latest technologies available in this day and age.
Online education is one of the best ways for people all over the world to learn new skills or improve on their existing ones because it allows them access to online tools without having to leave home. Plus, online courses are highly convenient as they offer flexible schedules allowing learners complete control over how often they log into their accounts.

It’s A Cost-Effective Way To Get Education

Lots of people choose online courses because this type of education can be an affordable option. This is especially true for online classes since there are no travel costs or other expenses that come with taking a traditional class on campus. Online courses also tend to have fewer restrictions than their in-person counterparts, allowing students the freedom to manage their time and work around personal schedules.

Online Courses Are Flexible

In a fast-paced world, it’s good to have flexible educational options. Unlike brick-and-mortar schools, online courses allow students to take classes that fit into their schedules. The tech age has made the world more mobile than ever before. People are traveling for various reasons at all hours of the day and night. By providing flexible learning opportunities through online education, universities can better help innovative professionals grow in their careers by giving them access when they need it most.

Online education is the way of the future. It’s easier to network and create a community and you’ll learn things schools don’t teach you, like how to run a business. It always keeps up with modern trends and is constantly developing along with the tech industry meaning you won’t leave anything out. Aside from all that, it’s cheaper than formal education and the classes are more flexible meaning you can also focus on developing other fields of interest while learning. Enroll now and go with the flow!

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College Enrollment Declines Again Though Online Schools, HBCUs See Increases

College Enrollment Declines Again Though Online Schools, HBCUs See Increases

About 1.5 million fewer students are enrolled than before the pandemic, says report from National Student Clearinghouse.

College enrollment dropped for the third consecutive school year after the start of the pandemic, dashing universities’ hopes that a post-Covid rebound was at hand.



The rate of the decline has slowed this fall, with college enrollment dropping 1.1% since last autumn. Over the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, enrollment fell about 6.5%, according to the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit that released a report Thursday.

About 1.5 million fewer students are enrolled in college than before the pandemic, according to the nonprofit.

“I certainly wouldn’t call this a recovery,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the research center at the National Student Clearinghouse. “After two straight years of historically large losses in student enrollment it’s particularly troubling that the numbers have not climbed back at this point, especially among freshmen.”

Online schools and historically Black colleges and universities were among the few categories of schools to enroll more students in the fall, data show. The shift reflects a change in the way students say they are choosing their colleges. 

University enrollment was sinking for a decade before the pandemic and this year’s rate marks a return to that earlier, slower pace of decline. Factors contributing to enrollment’s long-term slide include concerns about student debt and the rise of alternative credentials.

Less selective private colleges, especially in the Midwest and Northeast have been hardest hit while the most prestigious schools, including most public flagship universities, have maintained strong enrollment numbers, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.

At online schools, where students take classes remotely, enrollment grew 3.2% from last fall, according to the Clearinghouse. For students aged 18-20, enrollment grew 23.4% over two years since fall 2020.


Scott Pulsipher, president of Western Governors University, which enrolled about 200,000 students online last year, said the number of 18-to-24-year-olds jumped to 11% of the student body from 6% five years ago.

Cost and value are attracting young people to online programs, he said. A lot of families can’t afford to pay for the extras colleges charge to enhance the campus lifestyle such as manicured grounds, large gyms and luxurious dormitories. They want to limit their expenses to those associated directly with teaching and learning.

Mr. Pulsipher said online education has evolved since its inception. “We’ve learned how to leverage technology to dramatically personalize learning in a way that can increase cognitive progress,” Mr. Pulsipher said.


Ryan Weger, 20 years old, was among the high-school students who enrolled at WGU during the pandemic. He earned a degree in a little less than a year for about $7,000 and now earns $65,000 a year as a data-center tech at Amazon in Northern Virginia. He also earned seven tech credentials while getting his degree.

“When I was considering going to WGU in high school the one con was that I wouldn’t get the campus experience,” Mr. Weger said. “But when I visit my friends in college I don’t feel like I really missed out on that much.”

HBCUs saw an enrollment uptick of more than 6% among freshmen. After years of struggling, HBCUs are on an upswing in the last two years, said Walter Kimbrough, interim executive director of the Black Men’s Research Institute at Morehouse College.

He attributes the increases to a cultural resurgence highlighted by Vice President Kamala Harris, an HBCU alum, as well as greater concern around racism following the 2020 murder of George Floyd. “Families are saying explicitly, I want to send my child to a place where they will feel safe,” Dr. Kimbrough said.

Temitope Soyombo, a freshman at Prairie View A&M University, an HBCU outside of Houston, said the sense of safety informed her decision to enroll. “It just feels better at an HBCU,” she said. “I’m more comfortable talking to my peers.”

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case involving college admissions and affirmative action this fall. If the court decides schools are no longer able to consider race in admissions, Dr. Kimbrough expects that would lead to a boost in HBCU enrollment.

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Puma Illustrates the Power of Black Excellence (We’re Legends)

Puma Illustrates the Power of Black Excellence (We're Legends)

“We Are Legends” is PUMA’s new storytelling and product developing platform celebrating Black excellence and cultural impact.

The collection seeks to honor the Black creatives trailblazing influence on cultural progression around the globe and strives to empower and amplify the voices of our Black community—our legends. Championed and led by an internal collective of Black designers, the name, “We Are Legends,” reminds us to celebrate the now in Black culture and not just the rich history of past. The “We Are Legends” mission is to both increase representation within the design industry and drive real change within the very communities we are celebrating. The collective established a three-pillar model to ensure this initiative is making a tangible impact over time through donation, awareness, and community. Through “We Are Legends,” PUMA aims to be the brand that fights for representation in the design industry and the world.

“The name, We Are Legends, comes from the idea of celebrating the now in Black culture. Often when we celebrate Black culture, we look to the past. However, our collective wanted to help change this narrative
by empowering people to speak up in their most authentic voices now, to create their own legacy that will be legendary,” said Ariel Weeks, chair of the PUMA B-Bold ERG and footwear merchandising manager.


“I am extremely proud to introduce the world to We Are Legends, a collective of Black designers who are a prime example of when employees step up to drive and be the change that they want to see. This first collection within the We Are Legends platform, The Yard, is a homage to the spirit of the beloved HBCU experience and a celebration of Black excellence.”

“The goal of We Are Legends is to not only tell stories that are authentic and highlight the beautiful aspects of Black culture, but through this platform PUMA will aim to lead the charge in activating the next generation of Black creatives through building early awareness and providing accessibility to roles in this industry via strategic partnerships, mentorship, and education,” said Michelle Marshall, director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (PUMA North America).

The debut collection within the We Are Legends platform, “The Yard,” is inspired by Homecoming–a tradition in many high schools and colleges in the United States where they welcome back former students and members. The collection features men’s and women’s apparel in a bright palette of maroon, purple, and orange. Designs use material mixing and multi-placed collegiate graphics that unify schools, yard culture, and heritage. PUMA classics like the Suede are revamped with modern accents, shapes, and a neo-archival head-to-toe style. Design details references styles worn by HBCU students in the past and currently, capturing the culture’s deep history and honoring their contributions to American style.

“The Yard,” the first collection under the We Are Legends platform will release globally on Oct. 1, 2022, on the PUMA app and at the New York City Flagship store. On Oct. 3, 2022, the collection will be available on and select retailers worldwide with a retail price range of $40 to $120.

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IBM Teams With 20 HBCUs to Address Cybersecurity Talent Shortage

IBM Teams with 20 HBCUs to Address Cybersecurity Talent Shortage

20 HBCUs will work with IBM to establish Cybersecurity Leadership Centers, giving students and faculty access to IBM training, software, and certifications at no cost.

During the National HBCU Week Conference convened by the U.S. Department of Education and the White House, IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced its collaboration with 20 Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) to help them establish Cybersecurity Leadership Centers.

With 500,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S., the need for expertise is critical: According to a recent IBM Security study, insufficiently staffed organizations average $550,000 more in breach costs than those that state they are sufficiently staffed.**

“Collaborations between academia and the private sector can help students prepare for success. That’s especially true for HBCUs because their mission is so vital,” said Justina Nixon-Saintil, Vice President, IBM Corporate Social Responsibility and ESG. “The Cybersecurity Leadership Centers we’re co-creating with Historically Black College and Universities epitomize our commitment to the Black community and STEM education; it also builds on our pledge to train 150,000 people in cybersecurity over three years.”

IBM will collaborate with the following 20 HBCUs across 11 states to co-create Cybersecurity Leadership Centers, helping to create talent for employers and opportunities for students. (Six of these collaborations were previously announced in May*)

  • Alabama – Alabama A&M University, Talladega College, Tuskegee University
  • Florida – Edward Waters University, Florida A&M University
  • Georgia – Albany State University, Clark Atlanta University*
  • Louisiana – Grambling State University, Southern University System*, Xavier University of LA*
  • Maryland – Bowie State University, Morgan State University*
  • Mississippi – Alcorn State University
  • North Carolina – North Carolina A&T State University*, North Carolina Central University
  • South Carolina – South Carolina State University*, Voorhees University
  • Texas – Texas Southern University
  • Virginia – Norfolk State University
  • West Virginia – West Virginia State University

Through IBM’s collaboration, faculty and students at participating schools will have access to coursework, lectures, immersive training experiences, certifications, IBM Cloud-hosted software, and professional development resources, all at no cost to them. This includes access to:

Cybersecurity curricula: IBM will develop for each participating HBCU, a customized IBM Security Learning Academy portal – an IBM client offering – including courses designed to help the university enhance its cybersecurity education portfolio. In addition, IBM will continue to give access to IBM SkillsBuild.

Immersive learning experience: Faculty and students of participating HBCUs will have an opportunity to benefit from IBM Security’s Command Center, through which they can experience a highly realistic, simulated cyberattack, designed to prepare them and train them on response techniques. Moreover, HBCUs’ faculty will have access to consultation sessions with IBM technical personnel on cybersecurity.

Software: Multiple IBM Security premier enterprise security products hosted in the IBM Cloud

Free Person Using Macbook Air Stock Photo
Professional development: Forums to exchange best practices, learn from IBM experts, and discover IBM internships and job openings

About IBM Education

As part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, IBM’s education portfolio takes a personalized, diverse, and deep approach to STEM career readiness. IBM’s pro bono programs range from education and support for teens at public schools and universities, to career readiness resources for aspiring professionals and job seekers. IBM believes that education is best achieved through the collaboration of the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors.

IBM SkillsBuild is a free education program focused on underrepresented communities, that helps adult learners, and high school and university students and faculty, develop valuable new skills and access career opportunities. The program includes an online platform that is complemented by customized practical learning experiences delivered in collaboration with a global network of partners. The online platform offers over 1,000 courses in 19 languages on cybersecurity, data analysis, cloud computing and many other technical disciplines — as well as in workplace skills such as Design Thinking. Most important, participants can earn IBM-branded digital credentials that are recognized by the market. The customized practical learning experiences could include project-based learning, expert conversations with IBM volunteers, mentors, premium content, specialized support, connection with career opportunities, access to IBM software, among others. As of February 2022, IBM SkillsBuild operates in 159 counties and is supporting 1.72M learners since its launch.

About IBM Security

IBM Security offers one of the most advanced and integrated portfolios of enterprise security products and services. The portfolio, supported by world-renowned IBM Security X-Force® research, enables organizations to effectively manage risk and defend against emerging threats. IBM operates one of the world’s broadest security research, development, and delivery organizations, monitors 150 billion+ security events per day in more than 130 countries, and has been granted more than 10,000 security patents worldwide. For more information, please check, follow @IBMSecurity on Twitter or visit the IBM Security Intelligence blog.

* Announced in May 2022
** Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022, conducted by Ponemon Institute, sponsored & analyzed by IBM

Media Contact:

Ari Fishkind
IBM Media Relations

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How HBCUs can Accelerate Black Economic Mobility

How HBCUs can Accelerate Black Economic Mobility

Historically Black colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to inspire and support Black Americans in the five critical roles they play in the US economy.

The first higher-education institution for Black Americans in the United States was founded in 1837. Since then, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have established themselves as anchor institutions in their communities and critical platforms for the education and advancement of students of color. HBCUs confer 17 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to Black students in the United States, have boosted their students into higher-income quintiles and into prominent political positions, and continue to be key sources of talent. And they are doing all of this with endowments that are seven times smaller, on average, than those of non-HBCUs.

HBCUs have an opportunity to accelerate Black economic mobility even more. Recent events have prompted philanthropists and large corporations to donate to and partner with HBCUs. If such attention and funding could be sustained—and increased—HBCUs could help to unlock not only more advancement for Black Americans but also strong economic performance for the United States. In fact, our data show that a strong HBCU network could increase Black worker incomes by around $10 billion in addition to strengthening the economy with $1.2 billion in incremental business profit, $300 million in decreased student-loan debt, and $1 billion in additional consumer expenditures.

As the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility (BEM) and the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) found in their recent report, significant economic and human value can be gained when Black Americans, playing critical economic roles as workers, entrepreneurs and business owners, consumers, savers and investors, and residents, are fully engaged in the economy. HBCUs are uniquely positioned to foster such engagement.

In this article, we outline how HBCUs have substantively improved the economic and educational positions of Black Americans and others in the United States. We also consider the impact these institutions could have for individuals who play the critical roles in the economy cited earlier—and the prosperity they could unleash for many communities.

The impact of HBCUs

HBCUs were established in the United States in the early 19th century out of necessity: most US colleges at the time prohibited Black students from attending. And even up to a century after the end of slavery, Black students were still not welcome at many public and private higher-education institutions. Today, more than 100 institutions in the United States identify as HBCUs, with total average annual attendance of around 300,000 students. And they consistently deliver strong outcomes, especially on economic mobility.

Historically Black colleges and universities consistently deliver strong outcomes, especially on economic mobility.

Supporting students

HBCUs represent just 3 percent of all higher-education institutions in the United States, but 10 percent of all Black students matriculating through US colleges are enrolled at HBCUs. What’s more, 17 percent of all bachelor’s degrees and 24 percent of all STEM-related bachelor’s degrees earned by Black students in the United States were conveyed by HBCUs, according to a 2019 report. HBCUs also supply more Black applicants to medical schools than non-HBCU institutions. And HBCUs have graduated 40 percent of all Black engineers; 40 percent of all Black US Congress members; 50 percent of all Black lawyers; and 80 percent of all Black judges.

These institutions enroll more than twice as many Pell Grant-eligible (low-income) students as non-HBCU institutions and help create economic mobility for those populations. Graduates of HBCUs are 51 percent more likely to move into a higher-income quintile than graduates of non-HBCUs. The mean mobility rate across all US colleges is 1.6 percent, but the mean mobility rate for HBCUs is 3.0 percent.

The mean mobility rate for HBCUs is 3.0 percent, nearly double that of all colleges in the United States.

In addition to academic and economic outcomes, HBCUs positively contribute to the physical health of their attendees. A recently published study found that Black students who attended an HBCU were less likely to develop risk factors for chronic disease later in life than those who attended predominantly White institutions.

Additionally, Black HBCU graduates are more than twice as likely as Black graduates of non-HBCUs to report having experienced three major support measures while at school—for example, a professor who cared about them as a person; a professor who made them excited about learning; or a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams. The positive effects of such support extend into these graduates’ lives long after graduation: Black HBCU graduates report higher levels of well-being across many areas, including measures of purpose, social well-being, financial well-being, and engagement at work.

Serving the community

Eighty-one percent of HBCUs are located in US counties where the median wage is below the national average. In addition, 65 percent of HBCUs, compared with 47 percent of non-HBCUs, are in geographic areas where past and projected net job growth is slower than average 

Without HBCUs, the economic prospects of these communities could be even worse. According to one report, the nation’s HBCUs create 134,090 jobs for their local and regional economies, and every dollar spent by an HBCU and its students generates $1.44 in spending for local economies.

What’s more, there is an “inherent trust” and “cultural sensitivity” built up over time among HBCUs and the neighborhoods and communities in which they operate. HBCUs can leverage this trust to offer much-needed services and programs to their communities, including skills training, food pantries, and medical clinics—and, just recently, COVID-19-related services. For instance, during the pandemic, Alabama State University partnered with state and local officials to provide free COVID-19 testing for public-housing residents in its hometown of Montgomery.

HBCUs: Engines for economic growth

A recent report released by MGI and BEM examines the status of Black Americans, how they are served by public programs, and why addressing any identified gaps could transform lives. We believe HBCUs are uniquely positioned to help fill these gaps—and lift up Black Americans—given their assets, experience, and cultural and historical significance. What follows is an overview of the role HBCUs can play to support Black workers, entrepreneurs and business owners, consumers, savers and investors, and residents. We discuss the actions these institutions can take to accelerate their impact among the students they serve and within the communities in which they operate.

1. Expanding opportunities for Black workers

According to this research, Black Americans in the workforce earn a median annual wage that is approximately 30 percent, or $10,000, lower than that of White workers. More than 60 percent of that gap is driven by less than 4 percent of all occupational categories, with Black workers overrepresented in low-wage jobs and underrepresented in higher-wage jobs. Although Black Americans represent around 13 percent of the total US population, they account for only 5 percent of physicians and 4.5 percent of software developers, for example—but more than 35 percent of all US nursing assistants.

HBCUs can accelerate progress for Black workers primarily by enrolling more students and by graduating a higher share of them. Our research suggests that higher enrollment and retention and graduation rates could translate to an increase in Black worker incomes of $10 billion per year (see sidebar “How we calculated the increased income opportunity for Black American workers”).

Enrollment. Our research points to several potential remedies for increasing enrollment. HBCUs could draw more K–12 students into the college pipeline by partnering with school districts and allowing students to take college courses (and potentially complete an associate’s degree) while in high school. They could also hold summer camps for younger students to build interest and awareness of HBCU programs and opportunities. Additionally, HBCUs could target nontraditional student populations for enrollment. Morehouse College recently announced a discounted online program for people with some college credits. The program aims to serve “more than two million Black men who pursued a higher education [but] never finished their degree,” according to the US Census Bureau.

Retention and graduation rates. Beyond a focus on increasing enrollment, HBCUs could dedicate additional resources toward boosting retention and graduation rates. Many HBCUs have large populations of low-income and first-generation college students who are less likely to stay the course and graduate. Some HBCUs are seeking to improve their support for these students and increase the odds that they will graduate. Dillard University, Howard University, and Morgan State University, for instance, have partnered with the Lumina Foundation on its HBCU Student Success Initiative, in which the institutions collaboratively develop and share best practices for retaining and graduating students, with a particular focus on supporting sophomores.

HBCUs can also ensure that their degree programs are preparing students for high-paying, in-demand careers. For instance, McKinsey’s BEM and MGI research shows that relatively few Black students choose courses of study that could set them on a medical path. HBCUs could provide more career and academic coaching to support students’ awareness of the medical field and what’s required to obtain, say, chemistry or biology degrees. They could also establish new degrees and training programs to develop and support professionals in high-tech fields. For instance, IBM is partnering with 13 HBCUs to build a new Quantum Center that gives students access to IBM quantum computers, as well as educational support and research opportunities. Similarly, tech giants such as Netflix are partnering with HBCUs to offer coding boot camps for students.

HBCUs could also play a role in reskilling and upskilling, especially as increases in automation create additional threats to Black employment. Tennessee State University, for instance, has worked for several years to teach coding and application design to students and adults in the community.

2. Accelerating Black business ownership and entrepreneurship

There is an estimated $1.6 trillion gap in aggregate revenue between Black-owned and non-Black-owned businesses across the US economy—a figure that has only grown over recent decades. McKinsey research shows that there are fewer Black-owned businesses in the United States, and the ones that do exist are smaller than their peers. Black-owned businesses constitute just 2 percent of the nation’s total businesses with multiple employees, and they account for less than 1 percent of US gross revenue. Further, Black-owned businesses have been financially limited by both geography and industry; many are concentrated in the South and in industries like haircare, beauty, and social services, which grow less than 2 percent per year.

Lack of capital is a critical issue for Black-owned businesses. Black entrepreneurs start businesses with roughly a third of the capital of their White counterparts. And more than half of Black business owners state that accessing capital is a constant challenge in scaling their businesses. The lack of capital can also leave existing businesses vulnerable to financial shocks and economic downturn. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, Black-owned businesses closed nearly twice as fast as all other businesses.

What’s more, Black businesses receive a very small percentage of start-up capital: $1 billion of the total $150 billion invested in US start-ups in 2020, or just 0.7 percent. Black women received the smallest share of start-up capital (0.27 percent), and just 4 percent of the entire venture-capital workforce is Black, with 2 to 3 percent in investment decision-making positions.

There is an opportunity, then, for HBCUs to help train and develop the next generation of Black entrepreneurs and to help Black entrepreneurs scale up and sustain businesses in their communities. This could create $5 billion to $12 billion in incremental revenue and $250 million to $1.2 billion in incremental business profits using a 5 to 10 percent estimated profit margin.31

HBCUs can continue to encourage entrepreneurship through strong on-campus business programs or by introducing full-degree or certificate programs in entrepreneurship. HBCUs could also work to create partnerships with venture-capital firms to help match students with potential employers, thereby filling their pipelines with high-quality, diverse talent.

Additionally, HBCUs could establish campus accelerator or incubator programs that could offer students funding and investment support, and perhaps even more important, hands-on experience in building a start-up business—all in an academic setting. Some traditional venture-capital firms, including Andreessen Horowitz and SoftBank, have made multimillion dollar pledges to invest in Black entrepreneurs. Such companies could go even further and dedicate money directly to HBCU-housed funds, allowing HBCUs to make investment decisions that would most benefit their communities (see sidebar “Spotlight on HBCUs and entrepreneurship”).

By developing the next generation of Black entrepreneurs, HBCUs can have an outsize impact on equity and diversity.

3. Removing barriers for Black consumers

Black consumers spend over $800 billion every year, but research suggests that nearly $300 billion more could be unlocked if their purchasing experiences weren’t blocked by several factors, including food deserts (regions and communities with limited access to fresh food) and lack of broadband access.

Many HBCUs are situated in areas where Black consumers’ needs are not being met. For instance, 82 percent of HBCUs are in broadband deserts; 50 percent are in food deserts; and 35 percent are in areas without superstores that could offer consumers a full range of groceries, furniture, and clothing. McKinsey research suggests that if HBCUs could share resources with students and communities, an additional $1 billion in additional consumer expenditures could be unleashed (by satisfying the unmet consumer demand in these communities).

Black Americans experience the digital divide in communities where historically Black colleges and universities are situated.

For example, HBCUs can establish campus community gardens and consider ways to provide organic produce to food-insecure students and members of the broader community. They can also offer educational programs on the importance of nutrition and fresh food. That is what the University of the District of Columbia has done with its creation of five urban food hubs in various sites across metro Washington, DC. The hubs use production systems that factor in the urban environment, including raised beds for gardens and green roofs and hydroponic and aquaponic growing methods. The hubs provide students and community members with access to fresh food. The initiative has created jobs, improved public health, mitigated water-management problems—and ultimately created a measure of urban resilience in the metro area.

HBCUs could also optimize their existing broadband infrastructures and arrange to give community members affordable access to the network. With greater access to broadband, more people could then take advantage of virtual economic and educational resources that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

To provide more connectivity, HBCUs may need to look for partners. Benedict College is working with the University of South Carolina (USC) to provide open access to eight computer labs across the state of South Carolina, including one on Benedict College’s campus. The labs are located in areas where local school districts, HBCUs, the South Carolina Technical College System, and community members can get to them relatively easily. Benedict College and USC will supply the space, maintenance, and utilities so the labs will be free to users. This effort was funded by a $6 million Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund.

4. Supporting the savings and investments of Black households

The US racial wealth gap is the product of intergenerational transfers, lower incomes, and a lack of financial inclusion. BEM and MGI research shows, for instance, that the median Black household has just one-eighth the wealth of the median White household, with inheritances driving 60 percent of the disparity in annual flows. Smaller paychecks also mean that Black households save $75 billion less annually than White households. Black households are one-third less likely to own their homes, and the median value of those homes is one-third lower than those of White-owned homes.

Additionally, 14 percent of Black adults are unbanked—that is, they are not being served by a bank or similar financial institution. Of unbanked households, 29 percent cited insufficient money to meet minimum-balance requirements as the main reason for not having a bank account, while more than 16 percent said they do not trust banks. Proximity was less of a factor, with just 2.2 percent of respondents citing inconvenient bank locations.

HBCUs can help bolster students’ financial well-being while minimizing postgraduation financial obligations that can inhibit students’ savings and investing potential. Because of the racial wealth gap, a large percentage of HBCU students take out loans, often for large amounts: in 2017, HBCU students took out 32 percent more federal debt per student than non-HBCU students. McKinsey research shows that if the amount of federal debt awarded per year to HBCU students were equal to that awarded to students at peer institutions, HBCU students would accrue $280 million less in loan debt, which would significantly increase their ability to save and invest. To help their students achieve this parity, HBCUs could expand their scholarship offerings and secure more federal grants.

HBCUs also have an opportunity to address banking barriers and help to remove predatory debt traps for students and community members. Because HBCUs are often highly trusted institutions in their communities, they can connect their students and communities with more inclusive financial services—for example, ones without minimum-balance requirements.

Financial well-being, already a common topic at universities, could be an area of focus for HBCUs. They could serve as a knowledge hub for the broader community and offer public seminars on personal investing or cryptocurrencies. The Society for Financial Education and Professional Development has created a student ambassador program that trains students at 15 HBCUs in personal financial concepts so that they can teach others in turn.

And as the financial industry moves away from traditional brick-and-mortar banks and into mobile banking and neobanks—which operate exclusively online—HBCUs have an opportunity to connect their students and communities with innovative financial-management products that may better fit their needs (see sidebar “Spotlight on HBCUs and financial well-being”).

Through carefully selected partnerships and the right learning programs, HBCUs can give students and community members opportunities to increase their savings and wealth, while limiting the risks and concerns Black Americans associate with traditional banking services.

5. Serving Black residents

The quality of education, healthcare, and other essential services varies immensely among communities across the United States, but even more so in Black neighborhoods.

Consider the quality of education: K–12 education is funded through property taxes; thus, the national average for annual instructional spending in public-school districts in which 75 percent or more of the student population is Black is $1,800 less per pupil than in predominantly White school districts. Research shows that although spending per pupil is not the only factor determining educational outcomes, per-student sustained spending does matter.

The situation is even more concerning when it comes to healthcare. Lack of access to healthcare and insurance can have serious consequences, including a racial gap in life expectancy that has widened to five years between White and Black Americans: a McKinsey analysis of 2021 county health rankings shows that if that gap didn’t exist, there might be 2.1 million more Black Americans alive today. Counties where HBCUs are located account for around 500,000 of those lives.

Community services. There are many ways in which HBCUs can help create higher-quality services in their own neighborhoods. For instance, many HBCUs offer teaching degrees in which students are required to fulfill practicums to earn credits. There is an opportunity, then, for HBCUs to place these student teachers where they are needed most within their own communities. Additionally, HBCUs could establish tutoring programs for K–12 students—especially in STEM fields, which have a significant lack of Black representation. HBCUs can also offer their facilities and faculty to run quality summer camps to keep local K–12 students learning and engaged while on summer break (see sidebar “Spotlight on HBCUs serving residents”).

Healthcare. HBCUs can help improve residents’ access to healthcare by attracting and graduating more medical-industry workers. And many HBCUs—especially those offering degrees in medical professions—can offer community clinics that provide health services at little or no cost to neighborhood residents. Meharry Medical College’s Salt Wagon Clinic, a student-run clinic supervised by faculty physicians, provides free, high-quality care to Nashville’s underserved populations and serves as a training ground for Meharry medical students. Meanwhile, in April 2021, four HBCU medical schools in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Washington, DC, received funding to administer more than 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines from mobile units in their local communities.

HBCUs have overperformed—even as they have been underfunded relative to (predominantly White) peer institutions. When compared with institutions with endowments over $1 billion, HBCUs demonstrate a sizable and growing gap in private gifts, grants, and contracts—from more than $100 million on average in 2010 to more than $220 million in 2018.

University endowments are critical for providing stability for institutions (as revenues fluctuate over time); offering student-aid packages; pursuing innovative teaching methods or research initiatives; and enabling longer-term execution of ideas and programs. Between 2018 and 2019, however, the average non-HBCU institution had seven times the endowment value of the average HBCU. In fact, the top ten higher-education institutions on the most recent U.S. News and World Report rankings have 50 times the endowment resources of all the four-year HBCUs combined.50 What’s more, the average four-year non-HBCU institution has around $1.25 in endowment funding for every $1 in their budget, while the average four-year HBCU only has about 50 cents for every $1. Our analysis shows that if four-year HBCUs had $1.25 in endowment funding for every budget dollar, they would earn an additional $6 billion in endowments. The gap is even larger when viewed through the student lens: four-year HBCUs have around $20,000 in endowment resources for each student, while four-year non-HBCUs have four times that amount per student. If these HBCUs had the same amount of endowment resources as four-year non-HBCUs, they could contribute an additional $17 billion into HBCU endowments for student resources.

Some states are already recognizing and seeking to address the underfunding of HBCUs. Corporations and organizations, too, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, sought to add or accelerate initiatives to support HBCUs and recruit HBCU students. In fact, 2020 was for some HBCUs their strongest-ever year of fundraising. The opportunity for sustained impact from these institutions is significant. According to our research and calculations, HBCUs have the potential to produce more high-earning graduates, support the development of more entrepreneurs, decrease student debt, and remove barriers for Black consumers. If the current level of attention and funding given to HBCUs can be sustained over time, these institutions can continue the critical work they have been doing since 1837: dramatically improving lives and livelihoods and advancing economic mobility for Black Americans.


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For School For Students News Partners

Southwest Airlines Partners with Texas to Recruit Future Black Pilots

Southwest Airlines Partners with Texas HBCU to Recruit Future Black Pilots

“We do want to have a diverse workgroup. We want to represent not only the customers but the communities we fly to,” Southwest said.

HOUSTON — Ever since he can remember, Anthony Pumphrey Junior has wanted to be a pilot.

“I blame my dad for this one. I think I made that decision when I was two weeks old. My dad worked for the airlines. The story goes, they threw me in an airplane and I never wanted to get back out since,” he said.

Pumphrey flew his first plane at age 8 and now has his commercial pilot’s license as a college freshman at Texas Southern University. “For me, a lot of times, even today, I look out that window and look down and I’m like ‘whoa,’” he added.

Anthony is just the kind of student that Southwest Airlines wants to keep track of. The Dallas-based airline recently announced a partnership with TSU to create a pipeline for new pilots.

In school, students will earn a bachelor’s degree, in addition to a pilot’s certificate. Then, after working for smaller airlines, those future TSU graduates can apply at Southwest. Along the way, they are mentored by Southwest pilots. “There are nine HBCUs with aviation programs. Only three of them own their airplanes. Texas Southern University owns our own airplanes,” said Dr. Terence Fontaine, the director of aviation at TSU.

Pilot's certificate

But why Texas Southern? It is an HBCU – a historically Black college or university – and like every airline, Southwest is trying to diversify its pilot ranks. “Well, we know we have work to do and need to do and really and truly want to do from a pilot perspective,” said Lee Kinnebrew, Southwest’s vice president of flight operations. “We do want to have a diverse workgroup. We want to represent not only the customers but the communities we fly to.”

Diversifying the flight deck is not just something Southwest is doing. The majority of all commercial airline pilots today are white men. They make up more than 90-percent of those in this field. Black pilots are scarce and only account for two and a half percent of commercial pilots. Even more rare are minority women.

Katherine Cabrera, a TSU junior, wants to apply for a new pilot recruitment program that Southwest Airlines launched at the historically Black universities. “Nobody in my family flies so it was kind of a shock to them. My mom tells me “I never thought you’d consider being a pilot” but for me, it was a natural curiosity. I was always curious about space and aircraft and – because it was just so amazing to me,” said Katherine Cabrera, a TSU junior. She is among the students applying to join the Southwest program at TSU.

Last year, United Airlines started a similar initiative with three HBCUs. In February, Delta announced it was doing one, as well. Then in March, Southwest joined TSU.

“One day, one day when I’m with my family, I know it’s going to happen. I’m going to be walking down the concourse of some airport somewhere and I’m going to see one of these TSU students,” said Dr. Fontaine.

Realistically, it could take close to a decade to go from TSU student to Southwest pilot. But it’s a long play for all involved. The airline will need new pilots in the future and graduates will need a place to land. Southwest says between Texas Southern, military retirees and private flight school graduates, the airline anticipates having a pool of 700 potential pilots in the coming years.


For School For Students Partners

Juneteenth: How to Celebrate it in College

Juneteenth: How to Celebrate it in College

What Is Juneteenth?

Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day, Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and, as such, holds special significance for Black Americans.

Slavery’s remants have created long-enduring inequities in income and wealth attainment.

On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people were freed. This historic occasion came two and half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

In the years that followed, former slaves celebrated Juneteenth by delivering inspirational speeches, singing songs of hope and praise, honoring Black culture and food, and gathering with family and friends.

Slavery sought to destroy the cultures and familial structure of enslaved Black people, and its remants have created long-enduring inequities in income and wealth attainment between Black and white Americans. Juneteenth is thus a symbolic day of independence for Black Americans, and a reminder that the fight for freedom and equality is ongoing.

Juneteenth’s Role at Colleges

As colleges confront their racist legacies and recurring incidents of anti-Blackness and racial discrimination on campus, Juneteenth serves as a reminder of the systemic barriers that continue to impede the progress and liberation of Black Americans.

Despite the importance of this holiday, U.S. history classes rarely teach or mention Juneteenth.

Despite the importance of this holiday, U.S. history classes rarely teach or mention Juneteenth. Furthermore, Black college students have often felt that their history has been devalued and ignored in conventional teachings of U.S. history.

Universities and students are key to expanding educational access and broadening the social consciousness of future generations by acknowledging the racial and social injustices of the past and present.

Celebrating Juneteenth means promoting equity, teaching Black history and culture, and supporting Black businesses and social causes. By doing this, colleges and students can help uplift Black students as well as the Black community as a whole.

5 Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth in College

Colleges and students have many options when it comes to honoring the historic significance of this holiday. Here are five Juneteenth celebration ideas to try out at your institution.

1) Support Local Black Businesses

Supporting Black-owned companies creates more opportunities for increasing the generational wealth of Black families.

To support Black entrepreneurs, universities could employ Black-owned restaurants for a campus event or create a list of Black-owned businesses to share with the campus community, while students could order food from Black-owned restaurants and shop with Black retailers.

Black entrepreneurs often face challenges to starting and building lucrative businesses, so increased visibility and support are integral to their longevity. 

2)Donate to Black-Led Social Justice Organizations

In addition to participating in Black Lives Matter protests, you or your institution can donate money — even a small amount — to organizations dedicated to social justice for Black people. These organizations focus on increasing legal aid, expanding healthcare access, building the pipeline of local Black leaders, and growing Black political participation.

Here are 14 Black social justice organizations to support right now.

3) Honor Black Heroes on Social Media

College students regularly engage with others on social media, making it an excellent platform for reaching a larger audience and building awareness. Colleges and universities can create weeklong or monthlong social media campaigns to recognize the importance of Juneteenth. You might consider, for example, highlighting a Black hero or historical figure each day.

Given that Black heroes are often overshadowed, a social media campaign can help ensure that the accomplishments of Black Americans are not forgotten.

As a student, you could use your social media accounts to share posts related to Juneteenth, or start a hashtag to create awareness around notable Black figures.

4) Campaign to Make Juneteenth a National Holiday

Juneteenth is currently recognized by at least 47 states and the District of Columbia as an official state holiday or observance. Texas was the first state to designate Juneteenth as a paid holiday, and Washington state recently did the same.

Honoring Juneteenth as a national holiday recognizes Black people’s humanity and rejoices in the progress we’ve made as a nation.

Colleges could arrange a call-a-thon for students to advocate to their local representatives for making Juneteenth a national holiday. If you’re a student, take it upon yourself to call or write a letter to your representative. You can find contact information for your elected officials at USAGov.

6) Host a Black Art Symposium

Art in all forms has played an indispensable role in the history and culture of Black Americans.

Slaves often expressed their feelings of hope, sorrow, and inspiration through music and dance. From writers of the Harlem Renaissance to contemporary filmmakers, Black artists have chronicled the Black experience and the fight for freedom and equality.

Universities might consider hosting a Black art symposium featuring local Black artists, musicians, and dancers. The event would be a fun and interesting way to celebrate and honor the significance of art in the lives of Black Americans.

Students and student groups could put together their own smaller symposiums highlighting the art of Black peers, faculty, staff, and community members.

Another option is to learn more about Black art by reading biographies of Black artists, going to museums featuring Black art exhibits, listening to Black musical artists, and taking free online courses.

Why Colleges and Students Should Celebrate Juneteenth

Over the past year, educational leaders have boldly announced efforts and initiatives to dismantle racism — and many colleges have made a strong commitment to build and sustain a culture of antiracism. At the same time, college students have come out in droves to demand social change for Black Americans and other marginalized groups.

Both college leaders and students must go beyond issuing simple words denouncing discrimination. They must actively work to eradicate anti-Blackness and uplift the histories and cultures of marginalized students.

Whether you’re attending a college or working at a college, recognizing the importance of Juneteenth marks a crucial step to ensuring our most vulnerable students feel safe, respected, and valued.


For School For Students Partners

Green is the New Black – Environmental Justice and HBCUs

Green is the New Black: Environmental Justice and HBCUs

Over the last several years, Huston-Tillotson University (HT) in Austin, TX has been steadily improving its environmental profile. Highlights include the introduction of an Environmental Studies major, a 240 kW rooftop solar installation, environmental education and outreach via the Dumpster Project, the activities of sustainability student group Green is the New Black, and attendance at the United Nations COP21 climate conference in Paris. This progress is just part of what we hope is a broad campus transformation. Building a green identity requires clear self-reflection; we continually ask “what does it really mean for a university to be green?” For a historically black institution like HT, a large part of the answer lies in the intersection between the school’s history and the practice of environmental justice.

Environmental Justice is Rooted in Social Justice

The HBCU Climate Consortium Delegation at COP21

Environmental justice (EJ) is increasingly prominent in environmental circles. EJ is based on the understanding that all of us deserve a healthy environment – clean air and water, healthy food, and biodiverse ecosystems free of toxic agents. The goal of EJ, then, is to ensure that environmental benefits and burdens are equitably distributed.

EJ emerged as a community-based movement in the 1980s, bolstered by groundbreaking studies that detailed how environmental burdens in the US disproportionally affect marginalized communities. Economic pressures, inadequate representation, and corporate abuse contribute to a pervasive pattern: poorer people and people of color were found to live near polluting industries, landfills, and areas with poorer air quality. Much EJ work focuses on correcting this pattern by raising awareness, renewing impacted areas, and creating community resilience. Restorative initiatives like Sustainable South Bronx and Little Village Environmental Justice Organization go beyond mitigating environmental abuses to address the system that allowed these situations to perpetuate. Thus, EJ often addresses racism, gender discrimination, worker’s rights, economic inequalities, access to healthcare, inclusive governance, and community development. Environmental justice is built on social justice. And social justice is a road historically black colleges have walked before.

HBCUs Are Uniquely Positioned to Tackle EJ Issues

There are 107 Historically Black College or Universities (HBCUs) in the US. HBCU is a special designation for private and public institutions of higher education founded before 1964 with the mission of educating black Americans. Most HBCUs are located in former slaveholding states, and most were formed before 1900 – many during the Reconstruction period with the assistance of organizations like the Freedmen’s Bureau and the American Missionary Society, or in 1890 when federal funding for black land-grant colleges was enacted. Most HBCUS began as teacher training colleges (normal institutions), seminaries, or agricultural and technical schools. They have evolved. Today, HBCUs range in size from large research-focused universities to community colleges. Despite this heterogeneity, HBCU’s common founding mission – and commitment to address inequalities – ties them together. HBCUs have lent powerful voices to social justice movements from civil rights to women’s rights to worker’s rights. They are suited by history and by vision to bring their impact to environmental rights. HBCUS are particularly well-positioned to tackle the “green ceiling” problem, that is, environmental organization leadership demographics that do not reflect the diversity of our communities.

Huston-Tillotson Joins a Growing HBCU-EJ Network

Huston-Tillotson first took steps towards improving its environmental profile in 2008. Campus recycling was instituted and HT joined what was at the time the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), a signature program of Second Nature now known as The Carbon Commitment. Since then, students, staff, and faculty have implemented environmental projects in academics, campus engagement, community outreach, and operations. Some of these projects have broken new ground for our institution. For example, based on AASHE’s database of university solar installations, HT now has the largest rooftop solar installation of any private HBCU.

As HT’s green identity has developed, our institutional focus on environmental justice has sharpened. HT has hosted the Building Green Justice Forum, a day-long environmental justice conference, for the last two years. Environmental efforts on campus were united in a newly formed Center for Sustainability and Environmental Justice. And students in Green is the New Black, whose mission is to promote sustainability through campus engagement and community outreach, have linked HT to the broader HBCU-EJ community through their participation in the HBCU Student Climate Initiate, a project led by environmental justice powerhouses Dr. Beverly Wright and Dr. Robert Bullard.
The commitment of HBCUs to voicing EJ concerns reached the global stage just a few weeks ago, when a delegation of 50 HBCU student leaders and mentors attended the UN COP21 climate conference. HT Green is the New Black students Brittany Foley and Elvia Hernandez and mentors Dominique Bowman and Karen Magid joined representatives from 15 other HBCUS to deliver their call for climate justice.

Environmental Justice on Every Campus

Environmental justice adds a critical perspective to environmentalism that demands the attention of our campus efforts. Attention to EJ can also compel students who may not normally be interested in environmental efforts. We hope that HT and other HBCUs can serve as examples of how to blend social justice and environmentalism.