How HBCUs Can Accelerate Black Economic Mobility

The first higher-education institution for Black Americans in the US was founded in 1837. Since then, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have established themselves as anchor institutions in their communities and critical platforms for the education and advancement for students of color. HBCUs have boosted their students into higher income quintiles and into prominent political positions, and continue to be key sources of talent. And they are doing all this with endowments that are seven times smaller, on average, than those of non-HBCUs.

For all those successes, however, HBCUs have an opportunity to accelerate Black economic mobility even more. Recent events have prompted philanthropists and large corporations to donate to and partner with HBCUs. If such attention and support could be sustained—and increased—HBCUs could help to unlock not just more advancement for Black Americans but strong economic performance for the US.

As the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility and the McKinsey Global Institute found in their recent report, significant economic and human value can be gained when Black Americans are fully engaged in the economy. HBCUs are uniquely positioned to foster such engagement—and lift up Black Americans—given their assets, experience, and cultural and historical significance.

According to McKinsey’s research and calculations, HBCUs have the potential to produce nearly $10 billion in additional Black worker incomes, $1.2 billion in incremental business profit, $300 million in decreased student loan debt, and $1 billion in additional consumer expenditures. They can accelerate the production of high-earning graduates, support the development of more entrepreneurs, decrease student debt, and remove barriers for consumers. If current attention and support to HBCUs can be sustained over time, these institutions can continue the critical work they have been doing since 1837—dramatically improving lives and livelihoods and advancing economic mobility for Black Americans.

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) recognizes that HBCUs are an essential component to the nation’s equity, diversity, and inclusion strategy. HBCUs only represent 3% of all colleges and universities but produce 26% of all Black American graduates. We believe HBCUs possess the power and the people to create a more equitable society, that’s why we work so diligently to ensure their sustainability and strengthen their capacity to continue to produce top talent who are prepared to change the face of leadership in business and beyond. 

TMCF supports nearly 300,000 students who attend HBCUs and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) across the country with scholarships, leadership development, and unique programs that bridge the resource gap to get students to and through college and into good jobs.

We partner with corporations and government agencies to provide students with many opportunities to network with leaders and C-suite executives across the country. We are committed to student success and providing opportunities through internships and immersive experiences that prepare minority students for careers after graduation.

Training and developing the next generation of Black entrepreneurs through our Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) Program is critical to our vision and mission as an organization, as well as helping them scale up and sustain businesses in their communities. This could create $5 billion to $12 billion in incremental revenue and $250 million to $1.2 billion in incremental business profits using a 5-to-10 percent estimated profit margin, according to McKinsey’s analysis.

Through dedicated programming to intentionally diversify the future work force, TMCF is addressing some of the nation’s most difficult issues while creating both long-term impact and sustainable outcomes with underrepresented groups.

I am asking everyone who wants to support the mission of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to donate through a Workplace Giving campaign. Every year, millions of employees get involved in Workplace Giving campaigns to support organizations and causes that matter to them. You can see the results in your own backyard, even as you are part of a larger mission to affect change worldwide. This is your chance to support TMCF, the largest organization supporting the Black College community, as we accelerate initiatives to support HBCUs and the students who attend them. Your donation will help us to continue to advance our equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts by serving as a point of access to opportunity which is the legacy of Justice Thurgood Marshall. No gift is too small.

By supporting the Thurgood Marshall College Fund through a Workplace Giving campaign, you will directly impact our ability to provide scholarships, upskilling and equity programs, and career opportunities with top-tier organizations to the Black College community.

While over a third of all college students drop out before graduation, 97% of TMCF Scholars graduate. Your donation contributes to that success.

In the wake of the protests for racial justice that followed the murder of George Floyd, brands, individuals, and corporations made some bold promises to help build a more equitable society. With all the tumult of recent months—a pandemic still raging and an economy still reeling—it may seem all too easy to defer those promises.

My hope is that brands and individuals demonstrate their commitment to TMCF, and to HBCUs, by renewing and reinvigorating their pledge to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Now is the time to turn position statements into policies and action for change. Increased support for HBCUs and the students who attend them could help to unlock not just more advancement for Black Americans, but strong economic performance for the US.

Dr. Harry L. Williams is the President & CEO of Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), the largest organization exclusively representing the Black College community. Visit www.tmcf.org for more information about TMCF.

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