Monthly Archives: September 2016

Guy Kawasaki & Stanford Reminds African America Why HBCUs Are Needed Via Instagram


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After a crisis we tell ourselves we understand why it happened and maintain the illusion that the world is understandable. In fact, we should accept the world is incomprehensible much of the time. – Daniel Kahneman

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If so, then the aforementioned picture should be a thousand words about why HBCUs are African America’s best opportunity for access and opportunity. Unfortunately, the logic the past 60 plus years when a picture like this has surfaced is that African America must try harder or do better to gain access or that even presence of one or two of us is success.

The picture itself shows Guy Kawasaki, one of Apple’s early employees who is now a Silicon Valley angel investor, and an engineering class at Stanford University. Stanford is without question one of America’s premier research universities ranking eleventh with almost $1 billion annually in research expenditures. It is the university that laid the ground work for Silicon Valley itself to come into existence as well as being the environment that produced Google. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google’s co-founders, met there while studying computer science doctorates. Stanford also has one of the country’s largest endowments  with $21.4 billion – an amount that is ten times all 100 plus HBCU endowments combined just for perspective. Yet, despite this treasure trove of resources the school’s demographics (see below) do not even come close to matching the African American population in the state of California (7.2 percent) or the country (13.2 percent) as a whole.

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African America does not seem to truly understand the value in investing in its own institutions as other groups seem to in their own. We often do what is best for America, while other groups do what is best for themselves. HBCUs still produce the majority of African American professionals in America. In the engineering field alone, HBCUs currently produce 40 percent of African American engineers (see below) while only constituting three percent of America’s colleges and universities. The value of these institutions is unquestionable, but that value is not marketed or conveyed consistently to African America so that the community truly understands the value and importance of the opportunities provided through the institutions existence, the opportunity they provide, and why they need more attendance and financial support from African America itself.

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HBCUs themselves must also continue to build their programs. There are new fields of engineering to explore. Fields like bioengineering, space engineering, and other emerging engineering disciplines must be offered. HBCUs must think beyond just the basics of chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering. Premier HBCU engineering programs like North Carolina A&T State University (see below) truly are at the forefront of this expansion and other HBCU engineering programs must forge ahead. They must also continue to expand their research on the graduate level. Research among the top 20 HBCUs constitutes only $450 million in research expenditures, again while a university like Stanford does almost $1 billion alone. Much of the true innovation that happens in the US and around the world happens at the graduate level where the intellectual cream meets. There is no reason that the brightest minds from HBCU undergrads should have to leave the HBCU ecosystem or miss out on opportunities because our graduate schools are an after thought of leadership. We need our intellectual capital to circulate and remain within our ecosystem.

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The next Google, Facebook, or Microsoft lies within an HBCU engineering department. Perhaps it will be HBCU engineers that will help put the first African country on the moon, Mars, or beyond as they once did for NASA and America. HBCU engineering departments may come together and create our version of Silicon Valley. Whatever the future holds, as Dr. John H. Clarke said, “I am saying what ever the solution is, either we are in charge of our own destiny or we are not in charge.  On that point we got to be clear, you either free or you a slave.” A picture is worth a thousand words, but we only need to remember a few, the power to be free is in our own hands, hearts, and minds.

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The HBCUpreneur Corner – Huston-Tillotson University’s Jasmine “Bobby” Oliver & VYRL Co. Design


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Name: Jasmine “Bobby” Oliver

Alma Mater: Huston-Tillotson University, Class of 2015

Business Name & Description: VYRL Co. Design began from an honest place of desiring to have an opportunity to explore all that it means to be a creative entrepreneur, but also to showcase recent photography and web/graphic design projects that I have done. VYRLCoDesign.com became a space of passion, honesty, and inspiration where you can see a deeper side of a creative black-woman entrepreneur living, traveling, and pursuing a beautiful and fulfilling life that inspires others to do the same.

What year did you found your company? I first began as VYRL Media in 2010, then sometime in 2015 I started dabbling into design and the name evolved into VYRL Co. Design.

What has been the most exciting and/or fearful moment during your HBCUpreneur career? The most exciting and most fearful moments itself are when I realize that others are paying attention to my work and start asking me to do more challenging projects. Each and every project has allowed me to come out with a learning experience that I can take onto my next project.

What made you want to start your own company? Financial independence. Let’s be honest, this is probably the biggest reason people get into business from get-go. Which is a good thing! However we define ‘financial independence’ – retirement funds, unlimited cash potential or having the money to buy/do what you want….. entrepreneurship can allow you to achieve it. Another reason, I wanted to start my own company was because I had a hard time finding many places where myself, an African American creator/creative, could go to after graduation. So I figured that I would start small, build my own company and eventually hire other designers like myself.

Who was the most influential person/people for you during your time in college? Jeff Wilson and Clara Bensen. Jeff, the dean of our college, and Clara Bensen, local Austin writer.

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How do you handle complex problems? Creatives are wired uniquely. As such, I think we have to navigate the world in a slightly different manner than non-creatives. How I handle complex problems is by trying to slow down. This is one I’m still trying to work out. While i think that multitasking can be useful, sometimes it does more harm than good. This causes my creativity to plummet as well as my mood. So as a resolution I try to get a firm grip on my schedule. And I only take on what I can do. Next I prepare for disapproval. I don’t know about you, but for some reason, I’m always looking for validation. I suspect this has something to do with a lack of self-confidence. However, it’s important to recognize that some people ‘just don’t get it’. I am a Cancer sign which means I am a very emotional person. So I also try to keep my emotions in check. I have this habit of always dissecting my thoughts which tends to lead me to second-guessing myself. So, what seems like a good idea today, feels like a disaster later. Plus, I’m overcritical of myself. So I tend to try to remind myself that not every thought needs to be evaluated.

What is something you wish you had known prior to starting your company? I wish I had known how much entrepreneurship consumes your life. This has became something that has consumed my thoughts. You start with an idea then a hailstorm of ideas on how you could possibly execute the idea begins… and it never ends. You just keep thinking and doubting and thinking and execute.

Many African American companies and organizations suffer from a poor digital presence. Why do you believe there is not more investment in this by African American entrepreneurs and companies? I’m not particular sure about this. My guess is economics plays a part. It would be interesting to know how many of our businesses get e-commerce business. That certainly could play a role in how serious they take their web presence. If they are not getting much of their business from the web, then they may not think it is worth having much invested in it. However, these days the web is serving as the store front most customers encounter even before they get to your brick and mortar. A strong presence though is not cheap and as I stated, economics may play a major role in the lack of investment in this area. Do I as an entrepreneur invest more in my product or my web presence? It is a decision we are faced with more than other groups unfortunately.

Digital designers certainly get influence from a myriad of different places. What are some of the things that you believe influences your design personality? Things that influence my design personality kind of derives from my first experience as a photographer. I have always noticed that I was drawn to clean spaces and I’ve noticed that in my photography that I was always drawn to photographing in unison with landscape and architectures. I love clean lines.

What do you believe HBCUs can do to spur more innovation and entrepreneurship while their students are in school either as undergraduate or graduate students? I would love to see HBCUs encourage students to step out more and challenge them to find their passion, their why, and assist them in starting their own business even while in school. Not only should HBCUs provide the fundamentals, but provide them with hands-on tools and resources to develop action plans.

I’ve also noticed that many HBCU’s do not have many arts programs. I want to see more photography and design programs that are infused with business.I would be super geeked if I had seen a “Visual Identity and Creative Branding” course on my curriculum.

How do you deal with rejection? Bah! Rejection. It’s easy to say ‘don’t take it personally’ but it’s not so easy to do when you put your heart and soul into your work. I am still learning how to deal with rejection quite honestly so I don’t have an amazing answer but what I can tell you is that I try to respond to it by experimenting with new influences and making my work more unique.

When you have down time how do you like to spend it? I try to stay as far away from my desk and computer as possible. I love being outdoors so I may go on a quick trip to Conroe or Austin to visit friends for a day or two, go running with my dog, check out the museums downtown or simply do nothing. There are days well I feel mentally exhausted and I’ll opt to a movie on my iPad in bed and order a pizza and gather some snacks for easy access while in the bed. I’m keeping it simple these days.

What was your most memorable HBCU memory? Being apart of the student organization, Green is the New Black at my alma matter (HTU). GITNB is a organization that was created tin 2013 that tackled both environmental issues and race. We had events, raise funds and were advocates of environmental awareness in areas that weren’t particularly apart of the “sustainability conversation”.

The biggest moment was when I was even won first place prices for a $85,000 grant from Fort HBCU Challenge against much bigger named HBCU’s.

In leaving is there any advice you have for budding HBCUpreneurs?

Be focused. Very obsessively focused.

Abandoned By (Black) America: HBCU Endowments Less Than One Percent of American College Fortunes


A great nation cannot abandon its responsibilities. Responsibilities abandoned today return as more acute crises tomorrow. – Gerald Ford

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There are two houses and two families, we will call them the Smiths and Jacksons for the sake of this story, who are living next door to each other in a neighborhood. The Smith family in one household are preparing for a feast as it seems they do every night. Meanwhile, the Jackson family prepares their own feast, but just as they do every night at dinner they pack all their food up and walk next door to their neighbors home and knock on the door. The Smiths open the door as always with a smile and greet their neighbors and take the food they fixed and promptly slam the door in the Jacksons face. They add the food to their already illustrious feast without as much a second thought that they have more food than they need and that the Jacksons once again gave them all of their dinner. The Jackson family stands by an open window where they can smell the feast that they and the Smiths cooked as it sits on the Smiths’ table. Yet, they are offered nothing but the aroma. Eventually, the Jacksons return to their home starving and as every night goes, one of the children ask the parents, “Why do we give them our food when we have a table here to eat our food on?” At which time the parents always reply, “Because our food taste better on their table,” to their children who eventually will feed their malnourished and lean bodies with the bread and water they always receive after this affair. The children confused by this statement from their parents further inquire how do they know it taste better on the Smiths table. Their parents tell them of a time when they were allowed to sit at the Smiths’ back door and have a taste of the food and it definitely tasted better. The Jackson parents insisted it had to be because of the Smiths’ beautiful table, even though the food came from their kitchen. Then the children as they always do plead with their parents to allow them to keep the dinner tomorrow so that they can grow to be big and strong and one day they will be able to build all the fine things their parents see in the Smiths’ window. However, the parents tell them that when the Smiths cut wood for their home they cut it better than they did, that when they build furniture they build it finer because they have better tools, and when they serve drinks their drinks taste better because of course, their ice is colder. So the Jacksons continue to resound to every night giving their dinner away in hopes of one day being allowed to eat their own food at another’s table. And so has been the relationship to African America and its own institutions.

Over the past 60 years, African America has, save for the black church, been on an expedited exodus from supporting, building, and controlling its own institutions for the colder ice of their neighbors in the hopes that they would one day be allowed to sit at their neighbors’ table. This despite during the post-antebellum period up until World War II when African America started, controlled, owned, and supported institutions of commerce, education, politics, health, and more all within their own municipalities. Five hundred hospitals at one point, one hundred boarding schools, thousands of businesses, and yes over one hundred what we know today as Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Now, that first seventy some years of blacksmithmanship that built these institutions after the Civil War has been replaced by a culture of abandonment over the past sixty years.

In a recent article, Forbes highlights the institutional wealth disparity that exist within United States higher education institutions. A national system that comprises approximately 3 000 colleges and universities across the country have a combined endowment value of $500 billion. Yet, at HBCUs who comprise approximately three percent of the nation’s college and universities have combined endowments of roughly $2.5 billion or 0.5 percent, while 30 colleges/universities with the largest endowments hold $260 billion of the pie or 52 percent. Yes, 30 colleges have more in endowments than 2 970 colleges and universities combined and over 100 times the amount one hundred HBCUs hold in their coffers. HBCU endowments are not even representative of their representation. Who is to blame for such an anemic number? Well, ironically if you ask many African Americans they will lay the blame at the feet of HBCUs and the alumni who attended them for not giving back as they should. The irony of course being that ninety percent of African Americans who attend college today choose to do so at non-HBCUs. At the University of Phoenix, a for-profit college, almost twenty percent of its 213 000 student body is African American. An amount equal to roughly ten percent of the entire HBCU student population. This despite the University of Phoenix’s degrees not being worth the paper they are printed on, but they are not a Black institution so therefore it must be a better education, right? Never mind the percent of African Americans who decide to attend elite PWIs and take their intellectual capital out of the African American ecosystem. We are quite literally using our intellectual capital to build others research and academic prowess and deepening the institutional gap between African America and the rest of America.

The economic cost of abandonment by African American to HBCUs is hard to put an accurate figure on because the $125 that the African American graduate in 1969 did not donate to an HBCU and a bunch of probability factors would require a doctoral thesis and years of research, but an abstract analysis is possible. To note, for every $125 in 1969 that had been invested in the stock market with traditional returns would be worth just under $23 000 today, which in a moment you will see the relevance. Currently, there are approximately 20 million Americans in college, African America comprises 3 million of that population, and 2.7 million of that 3 million attend non-HBCUs. The average annual cost of college in the United States is $22 000 annually, valuing African America’s tuition revenue at $66 billion annually, but $59.4 billion of it is in non-HBCUs. HBCUs as a whole receive only 1.5 percent of America’s total current tuition revenue pie. When it comes philanthropy, numbers are even starker. In 2015, HBCUs received only 4 of the 530 donations (0.7 percent) that were $1 million or more to colleges and universities. Those four donations totaled $7 million, while the the top four to non-HBCUs combined for $950 million. The latter being an amount equal to almost 40 percent of HBCU endowments combined. Yes, in one year, four donations to HWCU/PWIs equalled almost half of what has taken HBCUs over one hundred years to accumulate.

Philanthropy for colleges ultimately boils down to two things. Either have a very large alumni base or produce very wealth alumni who procure their money through high-paying professions or entrepreneurial pursuits. The first sometimes increases the odds of the second, but there are certainly other factors as well. However, the first is the easiest to ensure a larger endowment just based on statistics. Inside Higher Education reported, “The participation rate in 2014 was 8.3 percent, compared to 8.7 percent in 2013. At private liberal arts colleges, which as a group always have higher alumni giving rates, about 20 percent of alumni donate.” That means that overall, out of every 100 students who attend college, eight of them will be active donors. A number that swings widely depending on the engagement of the school’s development office, alumni associations, etc. Or in the current case of the estimated 300 000 students at HBCUs, only 24 000 of them are likely donors. Yet, obviously if instead of only ten percent of African American students attended HBCUs, ninety percent did, then you would have alumni donor pool of 216 000 or nine times greater.

HBCUs must go for numbers because over the past sixty years as we abandoned our institutions (except the church) our wealth also plummeted post World War II. As a result today, African American median wealth according to the Laura Chin via the U.S. Census, “In absolute terms, the median white household had $111,146 in wealth holdings in 2011, compared to $7,113 for the median black household and $8,348 for the median Latino household.” The melancholy of HBCUs primary donor pool suffers the compounding impact of being sixteen times poorer and attracting only 1 out of 10 of the population it was built to serve coupled with only eight percent of the 1 out of 10 giving back. That means in essence over the past thirty years, less than one percent of African Americans who attended college from all colleges will have donated to an HBCU. A somber reality no matter how you look at it. Especially when you are trying to maximize the dollar given to have the most impact on African America.

However, recent events have shown there might be a resurgence in the long-term outlook for HBCU endowments. African American owned banks and credit unions have seen a resurgence as millions in deposits have poured back into their coffers as African America looks to gain more control over their communities. In recent years, HBCUs like Morehouse, Claflin, and Langston University have seen record breaking numbers of freshmen classes. This will only bode well for the future of that eight percent donor pool and the probability of $1 million or more donors as African America is creating more businesses than any other group in America currently, a key to wealth creation. The past 60 years may have been the dark ages for HBCUs and their endowments, but a new golden age maybe on the horizon indeed. It maybe time to set that dinner table after all.

Unemployment Rate By HBCU State – July 2016


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STATES WITH RISING UNEMPLOYMENT: 9

STATES WITH DECLINING UNEMPLOYMENT: 10

STATES WITH UNCHANGED UNEMPLOYMENT: 5

LOWEST: VIRGINIA – 3.7%

HIGHEST – LOUISIANA – 6.3%

STATE – UNEMPLOYMENT RATE (PREVIOUS)*

ALABAMA –  5.7% (6.0%)

ARKANSAS – 3.9% (3.8%)

CALIFORNIA – 5.5% (5.4%)

DELAWARE – 4.3% (4.2%)

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA – 5.9% (6.0%)

FLORIDA – 4.7% (4.7%)

GEORGIA – 5.0% (5.1%)

ILLINOIS – 5.8% (6.2%)

KENTUCKY – 4.9% (5.0%)

LOUISIANA – 6.3% (6.2%)

MARYLAND – 4.3% (4.3%)

MASSACHUSETTS – 4.1% (4.2%)

MICHIGAN – 4.5% (4.6%)

MISSISSIPPI – 6.0% (5.9%)

MISSOURI –  4.7% (4.5%)

NEW YORK – 4.7% (4.7%)

NORTH CAROLINA – 4.7% (4.9%)

OHIO – 4.8% (5.0%)

OKLAHOMA – 5.0% (4.8%)

PENNSYLVANIA – 5.6% (5.6%)

SOUTH CAROLINA – 5.2% (5.4%)

TENNESSEE – 4.3% (4.1%)

TEXAS – 4.6% (4.5%)

VIRGINIA – 3.7% (3.7%)

*Previous month in parentheses.

African America’s August Jobs Report – 8.1%


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Overall Unemployment: 4.9% (4.9%)

African America Unemployment: 8.1% (8.4%)

Latino America Unemployment: 5.6% (5.4%)

European America Unemployment: 4.4% (4.3%)

Asian America Unemployment: 4.2% (3.8%)

Previous month in parentheses.

Analysis: Overall unemployment was unchanged. All groups except African America saw a rise in their unemployment rate, who saw a 30 basis point decline in their unemployment rate. Asian, European, and Latino America saw rises of 40, 10, and 20 basis points, respectively.

African American Male Unemployment: 7.6% (8.2%)

African American Female Unemployment: 7.1% (7.3%)

African American Teenage Unemployment: 26.1% (25.7%)

African American Male Participation: 67.3% (67.7%)

African American Female Participation: 62.2% (61.0%)

African American Teenage Participation: 31.6% (27.7%)

Analysis: African American men saw a 60 basis point decline in their unemployment, but also saw a 40 basis point decline in their participation rate. African American women saw a 20 basis point decline in their unemployment rate, but a 120 basis point increase in their participation rate. African American teenagers saw 40 basis point increase in their unemployment rate, but a 390 basis point increase in their participation rate.

CONCLUSION:The overall economy added 151 000 jobs in August. A significant drop the 255 000 in July. However, African America added an unprecedented 280 000 jobs in August after only 31 000 jobs in July. This marks only the second time since HBCU Money started reporting the African American Jobs Report that African America’s job growth has outpaced overall America. The overall jobs though did come in less than estimates of 180 000, which has many questioning whether or not the Federal Reserve and Chairwoman Janet Yellen will actually raise rates or continue to kick the can down the road.

African America currently needs 634 000 jobs to match America’s unemployment rate. A decrease of 46 000 from July.