Tag Archives: HBCUs

The Double-Edged Sword Of White Philanthropy Into HBCUs


“When the white man came, we had the land and they had the Bibles. Now they have the land and we have the Bibles.” – Chief Dan George

Let us be clear, we need the money. Over 95 percent of HBCUs have endowments that are less than $100 million. In 2015, Sweet Briar College, a women’s college in Virginia, abruptly decided to cease operations. It sent shock waves through the higher education world and for many HBCU advocates it was an indirect message to our institutions that the fire alarm for survival for colleges on the financial fringes was not just a drill, but smoke could be seen in the very near distance. Sweet Briar College had an endowment of $75 million, which would put it firmly ahead of over 90 percent of HBCUs currently – and it closed.

It is no secret that the racial wealth gap makes it extremely difficult for African Americans to compete in philanthropic terms with our counterparts. The Federal Reserve in September 2020 reported, “White families have the highest level of both median and mean family wealth: $188,200 and $983,400, respectively. Black families’ median and mean wealth is less than 15 percent that of White families, at $24,100 and $142,500, respectively.” Given these numbers and given how much consistent financial philanthropic efforts are largely correlated with disposable income and wealth, then this certainly can give some understanding to the story of why HBCUs and African American nonprofit organizations (NPOs) in general have struggled. The Black Church (Are African American Churches Derailing African America’s Economic Progress?) being the lone exception to this rule, which has created a domino effect of instability for secular NPO development and infrastructure in our community’s institutions. Simply put, with what little money we do have to give it almost all has for the past three to four decades gone into the black hole coffers of the Black Church and done little to build proper financial infrastructure for other community supporting organizations. Enter white hope and savior.  

2020 has seen unprecedented gifts to HBCUs from white philanthropists starting with Mackenzie Scott, one of the cofounders of Amazon, who at the time of this writing is worth almost $60 billion. She made waves with her unprecedented and seemingly unsolicited gifts to six HBCUs and HBCU supporting organizations that totaled more than $160 million. This was followed up shortly after by Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg L.P. and worth almost $55 billion himself, with donating $100 million as well to the nation’s four HBCU medical schools. These two donations alone are equivalent to approximately 10 percent of all 100 plus HBCUs combined endowments over their 100 plus year history. Finally in some HBCU circles it was exalted, mainstream America also known as European/White America was “seeing” us and giving us our just due. Paying what was owed to us for so long being mistreated and underfunded. However, that same tune was not being sung or so kind when the Koch brothers donated $50 million between the United Negro College Fund and Thurgood Marshall Fund in 2014 and 2017, respectively. There were some who even called for the money to be returned in both cases so there is an inherent complexity in our organizations being in dire need of funds, but also wanting to be particular about who the donor is. The conversation about HBCUs and European American donors seems to be one that is little discussed and complex in its acknowledgment. But the elephant is there.

In fact, unless something astonishing happens in the rest of 2020 and since HBCU Money has been reporting on the Million Dollar Donations To HBCUs beginning in 2013, three of the seven years of largest donations to HBCUs have come from European/White Americans. There is certainly some historical reasoning behind schools like Hampton, Howard, Morehouse, Spelman, and Tuskegee receiving attention from European American benefactors. These schools have a long storied history and ties with them since their founding. Morehouse and Spelman receiving their names as a result of their generous funding from one John D. Rockefeller, Sr in the late nineteenth century. It is no coincidence that their early proximity to whiteness has allowed them to fair far better financially today than their HBCU counterparts founded by African American interest. But what does it mean when European Americans are the dominant donors of HBCUs and not African Americans? 

The long complex history of European American philanthropy as a social, economic, and political tool of influence seems often remiss in our community. African Americans have a naïve tendency to believe culturally that philanthropy is altruism. This despite us all having a familial experience where one family member lent money to another family member and even if the money is paid back, the lender never seems to let it not be told at Thanksgiving how they saved said family member. Think about European American philanthropy as a tool – missionaries in Africa, seemingly endless aid to Africa through the IMF and World Bank that has been used to create dependency states versus developed (see competitive) economies and you start to realize that philanthropy can have a strategic purpose. It paints a picture that Africans are incapable of empowering themselves and that without European and European American benevolence they simply could not survive. The same picture can be painted for HBCUs and African American NPOs.

It is hard to speak out against European and European American injustice towards the African Diaspora if you are HBCUs and African American NPOs (AANPOs) when that is the hand that feeds you. How can you convince African Americans that African American institutions are the mechanism by which we can empower ourselves as a community if they themselves are unable to find a solution? There have been a number of HBCUs who have come under pressure from wanting to have someone like Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam speak. Whether you agree with his ideology or not, the African American community understands the perch from which he speaks even if they do not agree with it. It should be us who decides who can and can not speak, but that is not how money works. Money garners influence in ways that can make you sit up in your bed uncomfortable at night because you heard something rumbling in the closet, but you live alone. 

Let us be clear, it is not that accepting money from European Americans is bad or unacceptable. There is a fine line between cutting off one’s nose to spite your own face. However, who has the leverage in the donation is vital. Is it money you have to have to keep the doors open or money that just provides icing on the cake? In the former it is the donor who wields immense power and in the latter it is in the institution. HBCU alumni must at least be willing to have the conversation about where our institutions money is coming from and more importantly how can we can ensure non-HBCU donors do not garner influence that moves us off our purpose to serve African American social, economic, and political interest and empowerment.

 

12 Things Your HBCU Alumni Association/Chapter Needs To Do To Be Financially Successful


“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein

Far too many HBCU Alumni Associations and Chapters have been asleep at the wheel for far too long financially. They have conducted themselves like a child who says they want to start a lemonade stand, but refuses to take the time to make a plan of acquiring lemons, sugar, water, and certainly not building a lemonade stand. There is more time spent playing with their friends and then seemingly complaining that their friends do not support their lemonade stand – that does not exist. It is enough to drive one mad. We have laid out twelve steps that HBCU alumni associations and chapters need to do to make themselves financially integral and sustainable for the future to meet the financial needs of both African America and the HBCUs they serve.

  1. Move banking accounts to African American owned banks and/or credit unions. It is utterly baffling that HBCUs and HBCU Alumni Associations/Chapters at this point still have not done this very elementary point of economic development given the acute presence of the #BankBlack movement over the past few years. Public HBCUs have more red tape by being state institutions and there are significant political dynamics at play there, but private HBCUs and HBCU alumni associations/chapters at private or public HBCUs at this point simply have no excuse.
  2. Invest in technology, especially financial technology. If HBCU Alumni Associations/Chapters want younger alumni involvement as they claim then they have to come into the 21st century – do you realize we are two decades into the 21st century and some HBCU foundations, alumni associations/chapters do not have a functioning web presence. This is where typically you would insert a mind blown emoji or gif. It is unfathomable and inexcusable at this point. HBCU Alumni Associations/Chapters need a web and social media presence independent of the mother institution for a myriad of reasons that should be readily apparent without great explanation. Alumni associations/chapters can work out an agreement with their schools to create work study that involves social media work and web development for those students who are interested and have the necessary skillset. Otherwise, spend the money and pay for a real web designer and social media manager – it is worth it. Financial technology – accepting payment by Venmo, CashApp, etc. should not be groundbreaking it should be standard. There are a plethora of financial technology available for nonprofit organizations. This should be the job of the treasurer at both the national and chapter levels to find technology that can improve the financial efficiency.
  3. Collect information on your members. Know your association/chapters strengths and weaknesses. If you plan on doing education outreach with your alumni association/chapter, it may help knowing who in the organization that has a background and connections in education. Need to put on an event? It may help to know the alumnus who worked in event planning or knows someone who does. Other information should be household income, level of education, home ownership, etc. The more information the better (we will explain the value of this in another point). But not knowing what assets you have is a dearth of proper planning and strategy.
  4. Write a business plan. If you do not know where you are going, any road will get you there. This opaque behavior is stressfully true with HBCU Alumni Associations/Chapters. We have an alumni association/chapter, now what? Having a written plan of what you want to accomplish, why, and how is paramount to any organization. HBCU Alumni Associations/Chapters are no different. The business plan should be reviewed and updated every 3-4 years to ensure that goals are on track . A review committee made up of internal and external members would be advised.
  5. Create a revenue and investment committee. These can be one committee or two committees, but it needs to exist. Beyond dues, how does the association/chapter plan to make money? Thinking of ways that revenue can be generated and those ideas presented to the association and chapter would be vital. Seriously, because have we not killed the annual golf tournament? Someone on this committee needs to have an investment background and if there is no one in the chapter with it, then invite a local financial adviser to sit on the committee in a volunteer role to help.
  6. Raise dues. There was just a collective gasp from everyone just now. However, creativity. Right now, most associations/chapters charge annual dues of $25-35 annually. Going to a monthly model of $5-10 can skyrocket annual dues revenue to $60-120 which is an increase of over 100 percent in dues revenue and it is an amount that few will miss. Implementing financial technology can allow this to be automated around alumni pay periods.
  7. Produce a newsletter and sale local advertising. Remember the roster of your membership and the data we talked about collecting. This is extremely valuable in putting together a media kit that you can use to sell local advertising in. Most alumni associations/chapters send out newsletters anyway. The ability to monetize that in the most optimal way requires being able to tell potential advertisers who they are reaching. Imagine being able to simply sell ten advertisements a year with twelve month commitments that each pay $50 per month. This is $6,000 in new annual revenue for the chapter from local businesses and relationship building.
  8. Hire a financial adviser. It can be the aforementioned one or a different one, but this also needs to be done. Associations/Chapters should be generating far more income than they do with the collective financial ability at their disposal. As an entity, your association/chapter can have a brokerage account that invest in stocks and bonds – not just sitting in a checking and savings account losing purchasing power. Ensure that the financial adviser is credible. There are even African American brokerage firms that can provide accounts and advising all under one roof. Again, we are not going to fundraise our way to institutional wealth. Our organizations’ money needs to be making money while it “sleeps” because money never sleeps.
  9. Purchase real estate. Now that you have a financial adviser, your chapter should also retain a real estate adviser to help build a rental property portfolio. Remember, we just created $6,000 in new annual revenue via the newsletter. You also raised dues from $25 to $60 and with the $35 surplus on a chapter of just twenty alumni that provides and extra $700 annually. In line with your investment income from your brokerage is also rental income. The association/chapter can focus on purchasing everything from single-family to commercial properties. If chapters purchased near their HBCU, it could help stem off any potential gentrification as many HBCUs are seeing, but in little position to do anything about. They could also purchase real estate locally where their chapter is located. This would provide the association/chapter another stream of revenue and diversified real estate holdings.
  10. Invest in African American small businesses. This could be done in conjunction with African American owned banks/credit unions. If a small business could not qualify for a SBA loan, then the chapter could work out a deal with the bank that would allow them to review the investment on the bank’s recommendation. The chapter would then either invest in the business with equity or provide a loan and act as a shadow lender. We know this is something desperately needed for many African American small businesses who are trying to grow and for some reason or another lack access to traditional financial products. Imagine a local African American kid comes to the bank with the next great social media company, but he needs $38,000 to get it going and does not qualify, but the bank says they have a program that may work to help him. The chapter invest the $38,000 for a 50 percent stake and acts as a passive investor while the kid builds his dream. Why $38,000? This is the amount Mark Zuckerberg and classmate Eduardo Saverin invested to get Facebook off the ground in 2004. A company now worth $840 billion and a 50 percent stake would be worth $420 billion – from a $38,000 investment. Not to mention the potential to secure jobs and internships for your HBCU’s students and alumni as the company grew.
  11. Endow internships at local organizations. HBCU alumni constantly complain about our students not having access to opportunity. Well, now with your new found financial wealth you can buy them access just like everyone else does for their community. The Museum of Natural Science in New York, Miami, Houston, etc. sure do appreciate that $100,000 donation your association/chapter gave them to hire a paid summer internship. The condition? That intern needs to come from your HBCU. Now, a student from your HBCU gets a paid summer internship, work experience in a field of their interest, and most importantly builds their professional network.
  12. Be transparent. Associations and chapters need to ensure that members feel like they know and understand what is going on. Part of this is improving the membership’s financial aptitude through financial literacy so that they understand the decisions being made on some level. Have a quarterly review of the financial portfolio and an annual audit. Trust is vital and for African American organizations that trust is built through transparency.

HBCU Alumni Associations & Chapters should be the symbol of group economics for African America. Instead, the actions have been more hat in hand with the rest of African American organizations who could, but do not leverage their capability. The infrastructure is there for HBCU Alumni Associations & Chapters to be financial forces if the proper financial strategy and plan is implemented. It is time to stop playing and start planning, there is a lemonade stand to build.

The $6 Billion Delusion Of Grandeur: HBCU Alumni Refuse To Accept The Harsh Financial Reality Of HBCU Athletics


“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” – Bob Feller

It sometimes feels like there is no more irrational sector of HBCUs than athletics when it comes to HBCU alumni bases and administrations. We want to buy the Empire State Building, but barely have money for a night at Motel 6. If you have watched ESPN’s 30 for 30: The Pony Express and The U, then you probably do not need to go further in this article. For those who have not watched either, please do so immediately and continue to read. If cheap shots on the field bother you, then you are not at all ready for the brutality of what happens outside the lines and behind closed doors. College athletics is a contact sport, a dirty business, not for the faint of heart, and the cost associated with it remind us just how huge the institutional wealth gap is between HBCUs and our counterparts.

In 2014, HBCU Money produced an article that showed the SWAC/MEAC conferences were losing a combined $130 million in their member athletic programs. Two years later, that number had skyrocketed to $147 million. The members of the two conferences had combined expenses of approximately $194.1 million while revenues without subsidies were a meager $47 million. Of course most alumni have no idea that the subsidies that we speak of are primarily student fees. These subsidies accounted for a staggering $142.5 million or 75 percent of the athletic revenues that the SWAC/MEAC generated if you can call it such a thing. Subsidies or allocated as defined by the NCAA and others consider student fees, direct and indirect institutional support and state money “allocated,” or everything not generated by the department’s athletics functions. It is not clear however by the NCAA definition if booster giving is considered a subsidy or athletic functions. However at 75 percent of revenues what is clear is that it is not ticket sales, sponsorships, merchandise sales, media deals, etc., but primarily student fees driving HBCU athletic revenue.

For the majority of our students, that means additional cost onto their cost of attendance which is largely financed through – you guessed it – student loans. Essentially what rabid HBCU alumni and administrations have done is asked students to take out a loan for sports. A predatory payday loan at that. The irony is that even with the subsidies the two conferences still were losing money, approximately $5 million, meaning HBCU boosters were not even giving enough to breakeven. Many HBCU alumni hold dear to the belief that if you build it they will come (eventually), they being the abundance of riches that African American athletes pour into our white counterparts and if they return to HBCUs the power will tilt and so will the finances of sports back into our favor making our programs profitable and financially abundant. Never mind the harsh reality those mega television contracts we read about to the Power 5 have little to do with the athletes on the field and more about the fans in the seats and audience nationwide. Outside of the Bayou Classic, there is not one HBCU football or basketball game that could bring over 70,000 (Superdome’s capacity) to it and millions of viewers on television. The latter mainly due to it being a Thanksgiving weekend game and the game itself almost became something of a staple to watch in many African American households. Fan bases care about having the best players because they care about beating their rivals. Coaches care about having the best players because they want to keep their job. The fact that they are African Americans is a byproduct of a game played almost 50 years ago when USC beat Alabama with a young African American kid named Sam “Bam” Cunningham who “Bear” Bryant’s all-white team had no answer for so in true fashion they went out and got a few of their own. And the rest as they say is history, but the past echoing into the present is very real and the present’s echo into the future is also very real.

The question is as educated and critically thinking capable alumni, why are we not able to examine this subject in a rational and objective manner? Why are we not able to devise an actual plan that does not involve breaking the backs of our students? African Americans are already the poorest group by median income ($40,258 vs. $61,372 for all races) and median wealth ($11,030 vs. $134,230 for European Americans) in America and we want to make it that much harder for our graduates to become financially stable and wealthy in exchange for sports? Primarily, this accusation is lobbed at football and men’s basketball and the black financial holes that they are to the majority of the nation’s colleges. By far, they are the two costliest sports on any college campus, black or white.

Schools like the SWAC’s Prairie View A&M built a $60 million stadium and new athletic complex (uncertainty as to whether the school’s current renovation of their basketball arena is included or not) and Jackson State University at one point even had the gall to suggest a $200 million domed stadium complex. Yet, without subsidies Prairie View’s program lost $13.1 million in 2016-2017 and Jackson State lost $5.4 million. Meanwhile, Spelman College scrapped its athletic program six years ago. The former president, Dr. Beverly Tatum, “When considering our options, I learned that we only had 80 student-athletes and the cost of our program was approaching $1 million per year.” This against a reality of serving a college of African American women and as an ESPN article noted, “49 percent of African-American women over the age of 20 had heart diseases, and were twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as non-Hispanic white women. The health issues that black women faced, including those at Spelman, were very much linked to diet and a lack of physical activity.” Spelman and its leadership wanted alumni to be healthy now and for the future. Health builds wealth is not just a saying but a real reality. Less days missed at work means more income earned, more money saved and invested, more wealth created, and more opportunity to give back to your alma mater. This is not even getting into the costs that many African Americans suffer from later in life because of poor lifestyle and diet which becomes so costly that there is little left at the end of life to even leave behind to their HBCU. Is Spelman sacrificing their athletic program today so that they can have wealthier alumni tomorrow who would be able to bring back the program and truly have it be sustainable? How much of a donation would it take to endow the $1 million annually to bring back their athletic program? Approximately $15-25 million.

Are we suggesting that all HBCUs follow Spleman’s lead? No, certainly not. There can be a happy medium, but first HBCU alumni need to truly understand the cost associated with major college sports, primarily football and men’s basketball. The harsh reality is that these are the only two sports at the college level that currently generate any significant revenue for colleges and unfortunately the cost to recruit in these two sports starts far before an athlete even gets to college. Recruiting for prized college basketball players for many college coaches starts in AAU middle school. Coaches from the basketball Power 5 conferences are constantly traveling year round and scouting talent that will not be college ready for four to five years in many instances. To say it is costly to follow an 8th grader around is an understatement, but if you do not do it, then you have almost no chance at seriously recruiting them (or their family) later on. HBCU alumni are not sponsoring or even mildly impacting the AAU financial machine, which can cost a family upwards of $5,000 for summer play and often times those costs are absorbed by a benefactor who maybe more akin to the Godfather and wants you to remember the favor he did for you later. Google AAU bribes and Google almost has a heart attack returning the amount of searches on the subject. When it comes to football, the situation has become just as complicated with the advent of the 7 on 7 leagues that have popped up all over the country. The cost spent on developing and “steering” young black boys as athletes begins early and costs tens of of millions annually – and we have not even gotten to the programs themselves yet. There is an enormous amount of dark money that is spent by athletic companies like Nike, Reebok, Adidas, etc. to ensure that the pup stars in both sports go to schools where they can maximize the exposure of the next superstar wearing their apparel. Of course, high school and AAU coaches receive perks for being the “voice of reason” to help influence many young men and advise their families on where would be best for them. Again, HBCU alumni and boosters barely have money to give to their own athletic programs, let alone “lobbying” to high school coaches with no guarantee of payoffs, but mandatory if you want to even be in the conversation. Then there are the facilities.

While Prairie View A&M spent $60 million on a stadium and athletic complex a few years ago, the University of Oregon was spending $68 million on a football performance center. Yes, Oregon built a building dedicated entirely to their football program and the state of Oregon changed the laws to accommodate the building that ran afoul of building codes because of the influence of Phil Knight, the founder and largest shareholder of Nike and the University of Oregon’s biggest booster. According to Oregon Live it includes, “offices, team video theaters, offensive and defensive strategy rooms, a coaching conference suite, a video editing center, a dining hall and a weight room.” Again, just for football. The Darth Vader to Prairie View A&M University’s Luke Skywalker for good measure, Texas A&M University, spent $450 million on a stadium renovation or eight times what the entirety of Prairie View’s athletic complex cost for a renovation to its stadium and now seats over 102,000 people. It has taken some HBCUs over 30 years to raise the money for even moderate renovations to their HBCU athletic facilities. Many are still waiting and some tired of waiting, increased student fees to redirect toward athletics. Colleges have to have the latest and greatest to attract the best athletes who are being treated as deities before even stepping foot on a college campus. College athletics has become an arms race of new facilities, high-paid coaches, under the table bags of money to recruits and so much more that spiral the cost beyond many of our wildest dreams. The rabbit hole is deep.

A few names and numbers:

Al Dunlap – $15 million. Paul Bryant, Jr. – $20 million. Phil Knight – $300 million. Christy Gaylord Everest – $18 million. Drayton McLane – $200 million. Herb Kohl – $25 million. Jack Vanier – $20 million. These are just six boosters that Mother Jones reported were major college boosters in an article in 2014. The six donations account for almost $600 million, an amount that is four times the size of the losses the SWAC/MEAC losses account for just a few years prior. Need even more perspective on how big these donations are? Aside from Prairie View A&M’s $17.9 million in expenses, those donations could cover the expenses of any SWAC or MEAC school in their singular. Phil Knight’s giving to the University of Oregon (since 2014 he has given another $200 million to Oregon) or Drayton McLane’s giving to Baylor University could cover the cost of every school in the SWAC and MEAC ($194.1 million) with money left over in the bank – by themselves. In comparison, HBCU Gameday recently reported that Winston-Salem State University was in the midst of a $250,000 athletic capital campaign with major donors coming from ESPN and WSSU alumnus, Stephen A. Smith, with a gift of $50,000 and Chris Paul, an NBA player whose 2018 salary was $25 million, giving a gift of $25,000. Large donations in HBCU athletic circles indeed, but making HBCUs competitive in recruitment among blue chips – not so much.

Unfortunately, there is no real repository of data on booster giving among colleges. Most of the information on the aforementioned boosters is from press clippings where donations to Power 5 conferences make headlines. In fact, a lot of giving becomes very opaque if we factor in boosters who provide jobs to athletes’ family members (remember Reggie Bush?) and the like. For the HBCU 5 conferences, there are not even press clippings, although if HBCU athletic and development departments wanted to disclose how much in donations were directed toward athletic programs from alumni it would be acutely helpful or create a database that sites like HBCU Money could use to give a fair analysis of the giving that is happening in HBCU athletic programs it would be greatly appreciated. However, again when 75 percent of the revenues come from student fees, it is not hard to know those numbers would be embarrassing and minuscule at best. And that brings us back to our problem of HBCU alumni who seem to be delusional about the true cost for building the type of athletic programs that can be self-sustaining and not breaking the back of students who in the future will not be able to give like they could and creating a vicious cycle of under giving to the institutions as a whole – all for the sake of sports.

The HBCU 5 athletic programs based on the SWAC and MEAC’s numbers, being Division 1 programs makes them inherently more expensive, brings all five conferences (SWAC, MEAC, CIAA, SIAC, & GCAC) total expenses to around an estimated $300 million annually. There are only two HBCUs with endowments above $300 million and we are possibly still a decade away from Howard University becoming the first HBCU to a $1 billion endowment. There are over 100 HWCUs with endowments over $1 billion. Around 90 percent of HBCUs do not even have endowments of $50 million. A startling statistic when you have schools trying to run athletic programs that cost $10 million plus annually. If HBCU alumni who truly cared about sports wanted to endow HBCU athletic programs with enough to generate the $300 million annually they would need to raise between $4 to $6 billion and hope they can find returns of almost 10 percent annually in an economic environment that is giving out low to mid single digit returns far more commonly. At 5 percent annual return, it would take $6 billion for HBCUs to get HBCU athletic programs off the backs and out of the pockets of its students and help reduce student debt loads. Almost 9 out of 10 HBCU graduates will finish with debt, 32 percent higher than the national average and a median debt load that is 40 percent higher than their counterparts at Top 50 endowed HWCUs. Is it worth it is a question any HBCU alumni and athletic boosters must ask themselves who cares about our institutions and the students who matriculate through them.

Wayne Gretzky is famously quoted as saying he was great because he skated where the puck was going not where it has been. HBCU alumni are bent on doing the exact opposite when it comes to athletics. Even if HBCU alumni could raise the $6 billion, it would be a fools’ decision to spend it on sports, mainly again football and men’s basketball. So why is an HBCU like Florida Memorial University selling $100 t-shirts to bring back its football program? Is it pressure from alumni? Is it an administration that wants it to be part of their legacy? The long-term implications of fielding a football program when Florida Memorial was moving towards a future of profitable athletic sports is baffling to say the least.

Little League sports statistics show that soccer is the future in this country, baseball is seeing a resurgence, and women’s sports is just scratching the surface of its potential globally. David Beckham, an international soccer megastar in his day and now the owner of the Miami MLS franchise, spent time at Florida Memorial just five years ago. Beckham’s is a relationship that should be leaned into and nurtured to put it mildly. Meanwhile, the pipeline for football is dwindling rapidly due to society’s fears over health concerns and yet, less than twenty HBCUs have soccer teams. HBCUs have all but abandoned baseball despite its resurgence in America and globally. Again, where the puck is and where is it going. This is to say nothing of the infancy that Esports is in, an industry that is estimated to breach a value of $1 billion in the next year according to the World Economic Forum coupled with prize money as high as $1 million for gamers in some tournaments and what feels like an exponential growth in sponsorships and endorsements. Esports is picking up so much steam it is being introduced in high school athletic programs and even some colleges are starting to offer Esports scholarships. There is not one of us who is over the age of 35 and under the age of 50 that does not remember a Madden tournament in the dorms of our HBCUs. We were early as we usually are, but completely missing the opportunity to leverage and be ahead of the curve.

HBCU alumni and athletic boosters need to have tougher conversations with themselves and with administrations. Read your HBCU’s financial reports for starters. A lot of this is poor financial literacy in that we do not know the cost of running our institutions, growing endowments, and sustaining an athletic program. We simply can not afford to buy high and sell low with HBCU athletics anymore. There is a happy medium and we need to have a honest conversation about it. Alumni and boosters need to understand the true cost of running our programs (something administrations need to be more transparent about) and not continue with the pie in the sky hope that African American high school athletes are just going to miraculously pick us. Zion Williamson, who had two parents attend Livingstone College still chose Duke University. There is a moat around football and men’s basketball and we need to accept that, but those two sports will not be the fountain of prosperity forever. Malcolm X said the future belongs to those who prepare for it today and it is time for us to start preparing like we need to cram for a final exam in the morning and our graduation depends on it.

The 2016-2017 HBCU Graduate Student Loan Report


There is scarcely anything that drags a person down like debt. – P.T. Barnum

The most recent study on HBCU student loan debt by HBCU Money shows a continued trend in this our third installment of tracking the crisis at our nation’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities. Whatever the nation thinks of the overall student loan crisis, it pales in comparison to what is happening at HBCUs. America’s student loan flu is African America’s student loan pneumonia with no insurance.

To put it mildly, the HBCU student loan crisis continues to be complicated. Overall, less HBCU students are graduating with debt as a percentage, which is a positive thing. Although the cause of why that number continues to drop is very unclear. The other piece of the puzzle though is the amount of student loan debt HBCU students are graduating with is skyrocketing. In the five years since our original report, the median student loan debt for an HBCU graduate is up twenty percent. Over that same period, median student loan debt for those graduating from a Top 50 endowed college or university is up only six percent.

The results are paired against America’s 50 largest universities by endowment which varied by geography, public and private status, and school size similar to that of HBCUs. The Project on Student Debt by The Institute for College Access and Success reports that in America overall, “New data show that the average student debt for college graduates continues to climb but at a slower pace, according to a report released by the Institute for College Access & Success. Nationally, about two in three (65 percent) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2017 had student loan debt. These borrowers owed an average of $28,650, 1 percent higher than the 2016 average.”

Numbers in parentheses shows the comparative results from the universities of the 50 largest endowments:

Median Debt of an HBCU Graduate – $34,131 ($24,237)

Proportion of HBCU Graduates with debt – 86% (40%)

Nonfederal debt, % of total debt of graduates – 4% (26%)

Pell Grant Recipients  – 71% (15%)

Statistics show that HBCU graduates are almost 32 percent more likely to graduate with debt than the national average, this number is up from 28 percent a few years ago. As the nation continues to increase the percentage of graduates with debt, HBCUs are actually decreasing its percentage is a canary in the coal mine. Again, it is unclear what is causing the drop. HBCU graduates are an astonishing 115 percent more likely to graduate with debt than those graduating from a Top 50 endowed college or university, by far the worst number in our report’s history with the previous being 96 percent more likely three years ago and 93 percent more likely five years ago. A disturbing trend upwards if there ever was one. The percentage of HBCU graduates finishing with debt is down over four percent in the past five years, while Top 50 endowed college or university graduates have seen the percentage of graduates graduating with debt down over eleven percent.

In terms of the debt itself, as mentioned the median student loan debt is up over twenty percent since our inaugural report five years ago. Disparagingly, student loan debt for HBCU graduates is more than 40 percent greater than Top 50 endowed college and university graduates. This creates a number of socieoeconomic issues  for HBCUs themselves and for the graduates they hope will be able to benefit from education’s upward mobility in wealth accumulation.

Median Total Cost of Attendance – $22,866 ($66,623)

The cost of attending an HBCU should be an advantage for African Americans, but poor endowments and lack of familial wealth continue to negate the one primary advantage HBCUs have, cost. Despite costing almost three times more over a four year period, Top 50 endowed colleges and universities are managing to graduate those who finish with debt at about 9 percent of the total cost of attendance over that four year period. In contrast, for HBCU graduates, they are finishing with 37 percent of the total cost of attendance over the same period.

Three years ago in our second report we said this and it remains true here in our third report as well, “Unfortunately, HBCUs are caught between a rock and hard place in needing to desperately raise tuition to generate more revenue because of weak endowments, but doing so increases an already over-sized burden on their graduates long-term and making it even less likely they will become the donors that the institutions desperately need. It has become a vicious cycle and with so much of African America and America invested in the demise of HBCUs that it seems only a miracle will keep us from perishing.” Without transformative donations of the eight and nine figure variety on a more consistent basis, then it is hard to see the student loan debt load decreasing or even plateauing at this point. A somber reality in a world where education is becoming increasingly vital for upward mobility for individuals, families, and communities.

Locked Out: HBCUs Only Receive 3 Of The 460 Donations Of $1 Million Plus To Colleges In 2017


If charity is any economic indicator, then wealthy donors have retrenched their nervousness about the economy as a whole. Two years ago, $1 million dollar plus donations to colleges and universities were under 500 such charitable gifts for the first time since 2012. Last year, that was reversed to almost 600, but the reversal was not to be sustained in 2017 where once again less than 500 donations – only 460 to be exact were of the $1 million dollar plus variety to colleges and universities. The largest donation made its way to UC-San Francisco to the tune of $500 million by the Hellen Miller Foundation whose source of wealth stems from real estate. For perspective, this donation is an amount equal to twenty-five percent of all HBCU endowments combined.

For HBCUs, the trend has been a constant struggle to get back to 2014 when nine such donations were made to our institutions. Since that time, not more than five have occurred in a given year in the past three years and this year marks the lowest number with only three donations of $1 million plus. That HBCUs can not even garner three percent (the number that HBCUs represent as a total of all American colleges and universities) marks a continued challenge in the financial arms race that is happening among higher education institutions as the shifting landscape of the 21st century unfolds. Without the transformative donations, HBCUs remain reliant on tuition revenue and at risk in competing for talent both among faculty, students, research, and infrastructure. What is the solution to this philanthropic Rubik Cube? As with most problems, there is more than one solution, but there is no doubt those solutions need to come fast and soon.

If you need perspective on just how large the gap is between the largest donations to HWCU/PWIs and HBCUs is – the top three PWI donations totaled $969 million. In contrast, HBCUs top three donations totaled $3.7 million, an amount that is 262 times less.

1. Orlando L. Clark (pictured above) – $1.59 Million
Recipient: Tuskegee University
Source of Wealth: Health care

2. Antonio Clayton – $1.1 Million
Recipient: Southern U. System Foundation
Source of Wealth: Law

3. George & Jill Hamilton – $1 Million                                                        Recipient: North Carolina Central University
Source of Wealth: Chemicals

Source: The Center for Philanthropy