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A Patent Created Is A Million Earned: HBCUs Are Not Keeping Pace In The Intellectual Property Arms Race Among American Colleges


“Necessity…the mother of invention.” – Plato

How did David beat Goliath, then go on to become a “Goliath” himself? With a rock, pebble, or stone depending on who is telling the story. However, it is truly what that piece of Earth hurling towards his enemy from his cache represented that is often most lost in the story. After all, most stories in the Bible are parables and in this case, while David gets all of the glory, it was truly the slingshot that was the star. The slingshot represented an idea, ingenuity, and research all at the same time. It was a representation of how even the smallest solutions can tackle the biggest problems and for David, the riches represent what is awarded to those who dare go after them.

What is a patent? According to the definition provided by the World Intellectual Property Organization, “A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application.”

From 1969 to 2012, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office granted 75,353 to America’s colleges and universities. However, during that same period HBCUs were granted an apathetic 101 patents, an amount less than one percent (0.13% to be exact) is a telling story of just one of the factors that hold back HBCUs financial sustainability. In the past twenty years alone since the turn of the 21st century, patents to colleges and universities have increased from 1,307 to 5,898, an almost five fold increase. In the same time period, the value of the revenue from those patents has also seen a meteoric rise to the tune of a 1,700 percent increase in value from $130 million annually to a staggering $2.2 billion annually. This does not even factor in the societal relevance that these institutions beget as a result. Can you imagine the financial and social impact that comes with being the college who invented the seat belt (Cornell University) or an even more well known invention, Gatorade (University of Florida)? The latter has earned the University of Florida over $1 billion in royalties alone. Even more to the point of colleges and universities profiting handsomely from intellectual property, according to an article in IP Watchdog in 2017, “a judge ordered Apple to pay the University of Wisconsin $506 million for infringing one of its tech patents. Last year, Carnegie-Mellon University won $750 million in a patent infringement lawsuit against Marvell Technology Group.” Those two settlements alone are worth fifty percent of all HBCU endowments combined. Needless to say, this is an arena that HBCUs need to make inroads into if survival and sustainability are long-term goals for our institutions.

PATENTS BY HBCU (1969-2012)

  1. Howard University – 18
  2. Morehouse School of Medicine – 17
  3. Florida A&M University – 16
  4. North Carolina A&T State University – 12
  5. Hampton University – 10
  6. Spelman College – 6
  7. Jackson State University – 4
  8. North Carolina Central University – 4
  9. Meharry Medical College – 3
  10. Tuskegee University – 2
  11. Alabama A&M University – 1
  12. Alabama A&M University Institute – 1
  13. Alcorn State University – 1
  14. Charles R. Drew University of Medicine – 1
  15. Claflin University – 1
  16. Delaware State University Foundation – 1
  17. Fort Valley State College – 1
  18. Shaw University – 1
  19. Virginia State University – 1
  20. Bowie State University – 1*

For all of the creativity that our culture has and exist on our campuses from faculty to students and more, there is little if any at times from administrations and alumni when it comes to finding creative solutions to our financial issues. Since desegregation took root in our institutions and began to gut them, a financial crisis has been brewing and its presence shows up every time we see another HBCU close its doors and even more starkly today in the amount of student loan debt HBCU graduates finish with as a result of poor endowments. HBCUs have taken on a what has seemingly become a check to check mentality in dealing with its financial viability. Instead of investments in R&D and entrepreneurship (Can HBCUs Produce Billionaires?), which is where the nation’s wealth has truly been generated for colleges and their alumni, we have seen far too many HBCUs and their alumni seemingly double down on being dependent on tuition revenue, make poor investments in athletics with no real return possible, focusing their students on getting jobs not creating them, and at times a feeling of lip service in relation to developing stronger pre-alumni and alumni programs that would strengthen giving.

It begs the question where do we go from here? How do we get administrations to ensure that intellectual property & patent development is a stronger part of its focus and how do we get alumni to give their time and money in a way that compliments and assist HBCUs in the infrastructure needed for said development? And ultimately, how do we turn our campuses into intellectual property machines? Let us examine, just a few points (but certainly not limited too) what HBCUs and their alumni could do to unleash its intellectual prowess:

First and foremost, we have to look at our research, patent development, and the like from a holistic viewpoint, meaning that anyone and any department on campus can be engaged in this process. That means everyone from the traditional route of professors and researchers to students to staff to cafeteria workers or lawn and building maintenance. Everyone must be part of this and everyone must be mentally engaged and present. A patent can come from anywhere and for us it needs too. For example, Paul Quinn a few years ago eliminated salt and pork from its campus, but what if a cafeteria worker created a way to still “salt” a product or their farm created a method by which you could raise a pig that does not adversely impact a human’s health. This would become an extremely valuable intellectual property that could be commercialized into a company that the school had an ownership stake in or licensing it out to major food companies and receiving royalties the way the University of Florida does with Gatorade to this very day.

Second, campuses need an intellectual property czar and department. Yes, create a position whose only job it is to promote, oversee, and help develop intellectual property. Their job would be to help ease the process, especially for the likes of students and staff who may not be as familiar with the process as professors, but even with professors helping ease the burden of the process would go a long way. The czar and department would be charged with identifying potential customers and creating commercial relationships where the intellectual property maybe of value. They would also assist in bringing in intellectual help if an idea is being developed but the technology or expertise to bring it to bear is not available on the campus. Perhaps, a relationship with a local software company or factory lends itself to the completion of the patent or intellectual property. Also finding opportunities where intellectual focus can financially benefit the school. An example of this would be the X Prize Foundation, where in 1996 for instance a businessman and entrepreneur offered a $10 million prize to the first privately financed team that could build and fly a three-passenger vehicle 100 kilometers into space twice within two weeks. Participating in these not only has potential financial benefits, but also raises the profile of the institution.

Thirdly, community and alumni access. Allowing the use of this broadens the probability that ideas and opportunities will come to the schools themselves and serve as a potential repository. Imagine for instance had Tuskegee been setup in such a way that when Lonnie Johnson, the Tuskegee alum who invented the Super Soaker, was able to come back to the school, use some of its resources, get assistance, etc. in exchange for a percentage of future or potential royalties. In 2013, he was awarded almost $75 million alone in royalties from Hasbro. An amount that is well over half of Tuskegee’s assumed endowment. Community access would also include summer camps to engage K-12 children in thinking as problem solvers. In other words, also developing the pipeline of intellectual property creators of tomorrow is integral.

Lastly, alumni must donate to create time for this all to be possible. How many HBCU professors can sit on campus for a semester, not teach, and simply focus on research? Very few, if any. How many students could stay on campus over the summer and experiment? Again, very few, if any. In fact, one of the primary problems that HBCU campuses have over summers is shutting down facilities in an effort to save money instead of opening them up for use to their professors, staff, students, and even the community. Those summer camps for K-12, which can lead to future HBCU students. Again, they need support and funds. Alumni must supply the funds to keep the lights on. Summertime is not a time to shutdown, but a time to have an opportunity to do the out of the box things that perhaps the semester schedules bog down. That can not happen without a targeted focus and strategic giving by alumni.

Patents, intellectual property, and the financial benefits that come with them currently are largely aligned with some of the nation’s largest endowments should come to no surprise to anyone who follows higher education finance. The top five producing patent colleges and universities between 1969-2012 (2018 endowment rank in parentheses), University of California (12) has 7,488 patents, MIT (6) has 4,017 patents, Stanford University (4) has 2,403 patents, CIT (34) has 2,365 patents, and the University of Texas (3) has 2,321 patents. In fact, these five schools have a combined endowment value of $51.5 billion as of 2018. Is there primary revenue from patents? Certainly not, but is the money insignificant? Also, certainly not. For HBCUs though, it could be life saving.

Even the way we engage this process may need to be outside of the normal box. For a lot of schools, even with alumni support, it maybe difficult to implement a program like this. However, one solution could be that the five HBCU conferences take the lead to allow for scale and best use of resources or HBCUs partner with other HBCUs and create a IP consortium and they profit-share. Stronger together. However it has to come together, it must. The financial future of HBCUs is rooted in becoming the problem solvers of today and tomorrow. It is time we focus, harness, and unleash the brilliant minds that constitute our institutions. Our bodies were used to build wealth for others for centuries, it is time to let our minds be the slingshot to our own (financial) freedom.

*Bowie State University was awarded its first patent in 2018.

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HBCU Money™ Presents: 2018’s HBCU Alumni NFL Players’ & Salaries


In our 5th annual installment of tracking the earnings of HBCU alumni who are NFL players, the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Terron Armstead takes the crown.

HBCU Money™ FACTS:

  • HBCU NFL players combine for $38.7 million, an almost 32 percent decline from our last list in 2016, when HBCU NFL players earned $56.4 million.
  • South Carolina State University leads the way with 4 NFL players.
  • 16 HBCUs are represented in the NFL. Up from 15 in 2016.
  • Average salary for HBCU NFL players is $1.8 million, a sharp decrease from $2.1 million in 2016.
  • Median salary for HBCU NFL players is $630,000, down 35 percent from 2016.
  • HBCU players account for 1.3 percent of the NFL’s 32 team active roster spots.
  1. Terron Armstead /University Arkansas-Pine Bluff / Saints / $10.3 million
  2. Antoine Bethea / Howard University / Cardinals / $4.48 million
  3. William Hayes / Winston-Salem State University / Dolphins / $4.05 million
  4. Isaiah Crowell / Alabama State University / Jets / $4 million
  5. Rafael Bush / South Carolina State University / Bills / $2 million
  6. Joe Thomas / South Carolina Sate University / Cowboys / $1.575 million
  7. Brandon Parker / North Carolina A&T State Univ. / Raiders / $1.538 million
  8. Anthony Levine / Tennessee State University / Ravens / $1.4 million
  9. Rodney Gunter / Delaware State University / Cardinals / $705,000
  10. Javon Hargrave / South Carolina State Univ. / Steelers / $691,000
  11. Antonio Hamilton / South Carolina State University / Giants / $630,000 (Tied)
  12. Chester Rogers / Grambling State University / Colts / $630,000 (Tied)
  13. Ryan Smith / North Carolina Central University / Buccaneers / $630,000 (Tied)
  14. Trenton Cannon / Virginia State University / Jets / $619,224
  15. Chad Williams / Grambling State University / Cardinals / $581,500
  16. Tarik Cohen / North Carolina A&T State Univ. / Bears / $555,000 (Tied)
  17. Tony McRae / North Carolina A&T State Univ. / Bengals / $555,000 (Tied)
  18. Michael Ola / Hampton University / Saints / $511,181
  19. Danny Johnson / Southern University / Redskins / $490,000
  20. Trent Scott / Grambling State University / Chargers / $451,674
  21. KhaDarel Hodge / Prairie View A&M University / Rams / $423,529
  22. Jawill Davis / Bethune-Cookman University / Giants / $395,294

HBCU Money™ Presents: 2016-2017’s Public HBCU Presidents By Salary/Compensation


HBCU Money’s second annual gathering of presidential salaries at the nation’s public HBCUs.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The highest paid public HBCU presidents’ list is dominated by the SWAC/MEAC who comprise 10 of the 11 highest paid presidents with the MEAC leading the way with six.
  • America’s top 5 paid public university presidents’ compensation ($10.3 million) is more than five times greater than the top 5 paid public HBCU university presidents’ ($2.05 million) on our list.
  • 1890 HBCUs, land-grant institutions, comprise 5 out of the 9 HBCUs present.

Ray Belton Southern Univ. System – $452,000

Austin Lane – Texas Southern University – $437,800

David Wilson Morgan State University – $432,754

Harold Martin North Carolina A&T State Univ. – $380,210

Larry Robinson* Florida A&M University – $347,344

Glenda Baskin-Glover Tennessee State Univ. – $321,596

Mickey Burnim Bowie State University – $318,664

James Clark South Carolina State Univ. – $230,000

Roderick Paige* Jackson State University – $170,387

Elmira Mangum* Florida A&M University – $107,471

Carolyn Meyers* Jackson State University – $90,166

*Partial-year compensation

Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education

HBCU Money’s 2017 Top 10 HBCU Endowments


HBCU endowments after a sluggish few years have bounced back with a spring in their step. Half of this year’s list has double digit gains in their endowment’s market value, which is the best showing since 2014. There are certainly some strong arguments of what has led to this turnaround in the past 365 days. One thing for sure is the strong stock market helped all universities and colleges in increased values. There has also been a renewed interest HBCU engagement among the African American community in general with increased admissions and donations across many HBCU institutions. This always bodes well for future endowments given that much of alumni giving is a numbers game. With the economy by many estimates on growing yet shaky ground, future market value growth for HBCU endowments may rest even more so in the pockets of alumni to steady the ship when rough waters approach so that will be something to keep an eye on.

We can only hope that Howard University (despite this year’s absence) is creeping towards the billion dollar endowment mark because the gap between the Top 10 HWCU/PWI endowments and the Top 10 HBCU/PBI endowments seems to only balloon year after year, with the gap increasing from an approximately $140 billion in 2010 to the current almost $200 billion. A gap that for perspective is twice as much as the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, entire net worth. As it stands now, there are 100 HWCU/PWIs with a billion dollar endowment or greater and 10 with a market value of $10 billion and greater.

Although they are far from the Top 10, Texas College continues to impress with their endowment’s market value growth, placing 9th out of the 818 colleges and universities that reported to this year’s NACUBO survey with 33.8 percent growth. Whatever is going on in Tyler, Texas, we encourage others to take note.

1. Howard University – Unreported**

2. Spelman College – $366 056 (5.5%)

3.  Hampton University – $279 093 (10.0%)

4.  Meharry Medical College – $153 653 (7.7%)

5. Florida A&M University – $113 000 (-0.1%)

6.  Tennessee State University – $55 840 (11.1%)

7.  University of the Virgin Islands – $55 549 (1.1%)

8.  North Carolina A&T State University  – $55 231 (14.9%)

9.  Texas Southern University – $54 171 (12.5%)

10. Virginia State University – $51 122 (11.6%)

Take a look at how an endowment works. Not only scholarships to reduce the student debt burden but research, recruiting talented faculty & students, faculty salaries, and a host of other things can be paid for through a strong endowment. It ultimately is the lifeblood of a college or university to ensure its success generation after generation.

 

*Note: The change in market value does NOT represent the rate of return for the institution’s investments. Rather, the change in the market value of an endowment from FY2016 to FY2017 reflects the net impact of: 1) withdrawals to fund institutional operations and capital expenses; 2) the payment of endowment management and investment fees; 3) additions from donor gifts and other contributions; and 4) investment gains or losses.

**Howard University did not report their endowment, but has been ranked number one since our list began. As such, we acknowledge the high probability that they remain as such.

Additional Notes:
NACUBO Average Endowment – $704 527 (8.9%)
NACUBO Median Endowment – $130 963 (6.0%)
Top 10 HWCU Endowments combined – $198.4 billion                                        Top 10 HBCU Endowments combined – $1.9 billion

Source: National Association of College & University Business Officers

The Conundrum Of HBCUs & American Campus Communities


Glorious shall be the battle when the time comes to fight for our people and our race. – Marcus Garvey

It is often preached that one of the major obstacles to African American economic development is the inability for the African American dollar to circulate within the community. This is often viewed on an individual level by where African Americans shop or eat, but what about at the institutional level? Do African American businesses and institutions like HBCUs also have a role to play in the circulation of the dollar? The answer is without a doubt, yes. Perhaps even more so and more impactful than anything individuals can do. Yet, it seems that when it comes to real estate development and student housing, specifically HBCUs have missed a golden opportunity to circulate millions of dollars within the African American economic ecosystem. To be more blunt, they have failed. That land development is not more revered is somewhat remiss given the lore of the 40 acres and a mule legacy within our communities, but our lack of strategic integration has become others opportunities.

American Campus Communities is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that was co-founded in 1993 by Bill Blayless. Its primary developments are as their name suggest focused on college and universities both on and off campus and primarily housing with some retail mixed in. They have built 206 developments spread across 96 colleges of which 11 have been built on 7 HBCU campuses. Prairie View A&M University, which has a twenty year relationship with ACC,  has the most with four developments with the most recent one opening in 2017. ACC as they are known by their ticker symbol is publicly traded with a market capitalization of $6.1 billion and annual revenue of almost three-quarters of a billion dollars. They have a unique niche in the campus housing development space. However, the story does not simply end there.

If HBCUs are going to do business with developers that are not African American and more importantly HBCU alumni, then there should be something that compels them to do so. A company with an outstanding track record for diversity, a stake of the company in their endowment portfolio, etc. Yet, further examination of American Campus Communities leaves serious questions about exactly who is making the decisions to use them for HBCUs. Of the company’s executive team, senior officers, and board of directors there is not one African American present and no HBCU alumni present either. In fact, there are no ethnic minorities period on the aforementioned groups and only a handful of women. What are decisions like this saying to our community that we so passionately claim to be saying we have the interest of? Are we to believe that there are no African American real estate developers who we trust or are worthy of such projects?

Don Peebles, Sharon Johnson, and Quintin Primo, three African American real estate developers with a combined net worth of almost $2 billion, have developed multi-faceted real estate development corporations and are nationally known certainly would seem more than capable of handling the multi-millions worth of development that happens at HBCUs. There are likely hundreds if not thousands of local African American developers as well like Sharone Mayberry in Houston, Texas who renovated Unity Bank, the only African American owned bank in Texas, and is leading the efforts of renovation in Houston’s historic Third Ward.

It is hardly a surprise that some of these HBCUs are being directed who to use or even having it chosen for them as six of the seven HBCUs who have ACC developments are state schools with Clark Atlanta University being the one private school. Being a public university means that public politics from the gubernatorial office and state politicians have a heavy influence on who receives government and public contracts for work throughout the state. This probably comes with a concerted lobbying effort by ACC to select politicians who make the decisions. The autonomy that state/public schools among the smaller schools (see HBCUs) often marginalizes their decision making while the state’s flagships tend to have the political capital to leverage their own autonomous decisions as it relates to almost every facet of their strategic decision making.

To be clear, this is not a suggestion that all American Campus Communities needs to do is add a token African American to their executive team or board and all is right in the world. That would still not create institutional circulation of the African American dollar and ultimately that is what this is about. If embracing the true circulation and creating a multiplying effect it would take HBCUs concerting with African American financial institutions to sell the bonds that would raise the funds for such construction, then taking that funding and having a request for proposals that ensured HBCU engineers, architects, and developers were a healthy percentage of those who were vying for the bid. Something akin to the Rooney Rule that the NFL uses in ensuring minority coaches get interviewed for head coaching positions that come available. The fact that HBCUs do not seem to be making a more vigorous effort to do this is troublesome.

Time and time again, African American institutions, be it HBCUs, churches, or businesses operate in their own bubble and are not more purposeful in integrating themselves, which makes the dollar within our communities even more difficult to circulate and therefore antagonistic to our institutional economic development. Alumni must deepen their resolve to be involved in not only fundraising for HBCUs, but auditing where those dollars go once they are received. It would be prudent if alumni demanded accountability of just how much of the annual services and products were bought from businesses owned by HBCU alumni. There is a long way to go in moving the needle on circulating our dollars more effectively, but a $10 meal at an African American restaurant versus hundreds of millions in development deals between HBCUs and our own real estate developers is a stark difference in getting us there.