Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs) consistently struggled with funding for years even before the coronavirus pandemic, which only made things worse. However, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the pandemic, and a new focus on the accomplishments of HBCU alumni has led to a significant influx of donations and a renewed focus on HBCUs.
HBCUs have received several significant donations from MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Last July, Scott gave $160 million to various, HBCUs including Hampton University, Tuskegee University, Howard University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College. Six months later, Scott donated $40 million to Morgan State University. She also donated $25 million to Alcorn State University and $6 million to Tugaloo the same month.
Meanwhile, Netflix donated $120 million to HBCUs last summer. Oprah Winfrey also donated to HBCUs as well as Dominion Energy. HBCUs also received $1.4 billion in coronavirus aid from former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
HBCUs also received significant attention due to the 2020 presidential election. A bevy of HBCU alumni helped get Joe Biden elected, including voting rights activist Stacey Abrams (Spelman College), Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (Florida A&M), Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond (Morehouse College), and Vice President Kamala Harris (Howard University).
Abrams Fair Fight voting rights organization directly led to President Biden winning the state of Georgia. Lance Bottoms was one of Biden’s first endorsements and stumped for him during the Iowa Caucus. Richmond became one of Biden’s top aides. Vice President Harris believed in Biden in the same way former President Barack Obama believed in him.
HBCUs are the bloodline of Black educational success. HBCUs account for 70% of African American dentists and physicians, 50% of African American teachers, and 40% of African American health professionals while representing just 3% of college graduates in the U.S.
“That tells you everything,” Stanley Nelson, a documentarian told NBC News. “These schools have been the conduit for Black people entering the middle class. And in some ways, after more than a hundred years, the mission of HBCUs has not changed: Give a chance to go to college for individuals who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten it. And they’ve done an effective job at it.”
Despite the influx of funds and attention, typically HBCUs have struggled financially due to a lack of government support and lower donations and donation amounts from alumni when compared to white universities. The pandemic only made things worse.
One example is Bethune-Cookman University in Florida. In 2019 the school had an $8 million budget deficit and was in danger of losing its accreditation until the state gave $13 million to the school, with a commitment for yearly support.
After years of struggling financially while at the same time providing a quality education for some of the most notable people on the planet, HBCUs may finally be getting their due.