Study: It’s Time to Create a Federal HBCU Endowment Fund
From The Century Foundation …
Donations to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are increasingly a top priority for philanthropists. Last week, Spelman College, an all-women’s HBCU in Atlanta, Georgia, announced they were receiving a donation of $100 million from businesswoman and philanthropist Ronda Stryker and her husband, William Johnston—the largest-ever single donation to an HBCU. This news followed on the heels of a $100 million donation to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) from the Lilly Endowment Inc. announced the previous week, to be shared among the thirty-seven private HBCUs that are members of UNCF. These gifts together with earlier donations totaling $560 million by MacKenzie Scott demonstrate that philanthropists recognize the dire need among HBCUs for endowment funding.
This moment should be loudly celebrated: endowing HBCUs with resources will be transformative in helping them fulfill their mission. Much of these funds are unrestricted donations, meaning that recipient institutions can decide whether they want to use them for things such as offering scholarships to prospective students, improving and maintaining facilities, pursuing research initiatives, or expanding and improving academic programs. This is the power of having an endowment: being able to decide an institution’s future path in a way that best fits its mission and serves its students.
These donations will also partly address the funding inequities that HBCUs have experienced throughout history—inequities that resulted from underfunding by federal and state governments.
And so while this moment of abundance is cause for joy, it is also a time to recognize once again that while philanthropic efforts can help meet the need for endowment growth at HBCUs, only the federal government has the capacity to solve these inequities and ensure HBCUs become adequately funded.