The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) released the results of a study showing that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) provide economic sustenance for the communities in which they are located.
In a report called, “HBCUs Make America Strong,” findings indicate that $14.8 billion generate between public and private HBCUs, annually. With much of the money circulating in areas of the country that fall under the radar of economic empowerment.
Mostly located in black communities or rural areas of the south, HBCUs serve as essential institutions that give communities some type of economic footing. According to UNCF’s report, the institutions are “economic engines” with monetary influence “that’s equivalent to a ranking in the top 200 on the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations.”
“[The data] shows that money spent in, around, and by the nation’s HBCUs and their students drives economic growth on-and-off-campus—and the effect of that spending is multiplied over time. Each dollar spent creates far more than a dollar’s worth of productive activity as it moves through the economy,” says UNCF president and CEO, Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D.
African American Education After Emancipation
Currently, there are 101 HBCUs mostly in southern regions of the United States. When first founded, the schools were the few places blacks could receive higher education for a hundred years after Emancipation.
Before the Civil War, there were two colleges for blacks, Cheyney University (1837) and Lincoln University (1854), both private institutions located in Pennsylvania.
Afterwards, schools catering to blacks sprang up to educate the largely illiterate formerly enslaved population. To boost educational pursuits for both whites and blacks, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law, the Morrill Act in 1862, black institutions were afforded a limited opportunity to build.
The Morrill Act allowed the federal government to provide land grants to form educational institutions that focused on agricultural and mechanical degrees.
Colleges for white students popped up from the West to East coasts. At the same time, a handful of black colleges were birthed because of racial segregation laws. Often these schools, founded by blacks with white benefactors, were built in African American neighborhoods.
Still HBCUs are critical sites of producing African-American graduates from bachelor’s to doctoral degrees; however, other racial groups attend. Currently, Latino enrollment has jumped, and a steady white and Native American student population is visible.
Although enrollment numbers increased in the past years, HBCUs struggle fiscally; yet and still, reports show that black students gain richer experiences and thrive more in their careers after graduation.