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Howard v. Harvard: Financial Takeaways From The HBCU-Ivy League Game Of The Century (Or So We Hoped)


This game was building in hype from the moment it was announced. The premier academic higher education institutions that represented the best of European American and the best of African America. Schools known best for their academics who also happen to have strong athletic heritages. Harvard University, founded in 1636, calls Boston, Massachusetts home. Arguably, the “capital” of WASP America. Howard University, founded in 1867, calls Washington, D.C. home and up until a decade ago was affectionately known as “Chocolate City” due to the high concentration of African American population. Today, thanks to gentrification it is starting to look a bit more like “Pumpkin Spice Latte City”, but that is another story all together. The game itself ended up resembling unfortunately the economic state of the two groups they represent and how sometimes no matter the size of the heart of the dog in the fight, the size of the dog actually matters. The final score: Harvard 62 v. Howard 17. HBCU Money decided to do a quick take on the financial reality of these two institutions since there is talk that HBCU-Ivy League games could be a “thing” in the future.

ENDOWMENTS:

Harvard has a 231 year head start and one could make the case even longer if we want to count African America’s struggle to hold onto financial assets from coming under attack through a myriad of issues like stolen land, Jim Crow, violence and the like for 100 years AFTER Howard’s founding. However, the situation is as the situation is. According to NACUBO, Harvard’s endowment at the end of fiscal 2018 stood at $38.3 billion, while Howard’s endowment stands at $688.5 million. That gives Harvard about $55 for every $1 that Howard has.

ALUMNI GIVING RATE:

While there are a lot of factor that tie into alumni giving rates, the fact remains it is one of the more even playing fields that HBCUs and PWIs can compete in head to head. Why? A donation of ANY size counts towards the alumni giving rate. From $1 to $100 million, it counts the same in the alumni giving rate. Harvard ranks second in the Ivy League conference with a giving rate of 33.1 percent according to Yale Daily News. Howard, like many HBCUs alumni giving rate fails to even break double digits with a 7 percent giving rate according to the Washington Post. This area may be more problematic in closing the institutional gap more than almost any other. Harvard’s alumni just by their demographic have more wealth than Howard alumni so to have an alumni giving rate that is 500 percent higher just exacerbates the problem. European Americans have over 10 times the wealth that African Americans have, which means that Harvard alumni are likely giving higher dollar amount donations and clearly at a higher percentage. If Howard and HBCUs are going to close the ground, then they are going to have to have a higher giving rate. HBCUs are not getting major donors, but they can get a lot small donors to give a lot to make up the ground.

RESEARCH EXPENDITURES:

Just as scary as the endowments, the research expenditures that both schools touts an immense institutional gap. Although, a grain of sunshine, Howard does lead all HBCUs in research expenditure, while Harvard ranks ninth among PWIs. That being said, Harvard’s annual research expenditure is 24 times the size of Howard’s. Harvard, ranked ninth nationally in research expenditures, has a 2017 RE of $1.1 billion. Howard, ranked 203rd nationally in research expenditures, has a 2017 RE of $45.8 million. Unfortunately, Harvard’s research expenditures have been trending upward the past few years, while Howard’s have been trending downward.

ATHLETIC BUDGETS:

Both institutions compete in the FCS, formerly known as Division 1-AA, but there have been 41 FCS champions since the formation of the playoff in 1978 and only one HBCU has ever participated in the championship game. Florida A&M University won the FCS championship its inaugural season and no HBCU has been back since. The Ivy League on the other hand is one of three FCS conferences that simply opts out of the playoff all together. In the 1950s, the league itself simply considered sports not even a secondary priority some would say. That being said, Harvard’s athletic budget is still 70 percent larger than Howard’s and larger than virtually every HBCU. Harvard’s $17.6 million makes a world of difference on the football field compared to Howard’s $10.1 million. The Ivy League average on athletics is $27.1 million, while the average in the SWAC/MEAC is $9.7 million. This makes future contest not very exciting too look forward too if this is the margin by which our schools will be competing against.

BILLIONAIRES:

A potentially odd category to finish with, but one clearly relevant. Resources matter in higher education and when Harvard’s endowment is almost 20 times the size of all HBCUs combined, then you have to wonder just how the gap can be closed among HBCUs and PWIs. As of 2018, Harvard has 188 alumni who were billionaires. The most of any college in America. Howard University have none. HBCUs all told have two (Oprah Winfrey and Ann Kroenke).

Howard’s largest donation in school history was $6 million in 1987, which adjusted for inflation is $13.5 million. Harvard’s largest donation seems to be a moving target with billionaire after billionaire competing for the top spot. In comparison, Harvard received a $400 million gift in 2015 from one of its 188 billionaire alumni. No HBCU has ever received a donation of $100 million or more.

 

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