5 HBCU funding trends to watch in 2021

by Jeremy

Historically Black colleges saw a significant uptick in donations last year, and several of the incoming president’s campaign proposals pledged them additional funding. Higher education experts say these schools are poised to build on that momentum in 2021.  More than a dozen HBCUs recently attracted the interest of billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, who donated some $500 million to the sector. President-elect Joe Biden has also pitched billions in new funding for HBCUs and other higher education policies that could benefit these schools.


Yet funding challenges remain. Like much of higher ed, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing HBCUs to pay for campus safety measures and invest in online learning. The health crisis has also sapped states’ coffers, and some are looking to pull support from public colleges to fill their budget holes.

Here, we look at five HBCU funding trends to watch this year.

Megadonors’ interest in HBCUs grows.

HBCUs don’t usually receive the size of donations to which Ivy League universities and other affluent colleges are accustomed, but they’ve recently been attracting more interest from megadonors. Last year, HBCUs received at least 31 gifts worth $1 million or more, according to Higher Ed Dive’s analysis of The Chronicle of Philanthropy data. That’s compared to just two in 2017, Inside Philanthropy found.  Spelman and Morehouse colleges in Georgia, and UNCF, an organization that awards scholarships and lobbies on behalf of private HBCUs, received $40 million each in June from Patty Quillin and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. The funds will be used for scholarships. A few months later, Bloomberg Philanthropies pledged $26 million to Georgia’s Morehouse School of Medicine.

Although the medical school averages $10 million in gifts annually, it has raised four times that amount this fiscal year, said Bennie Harris, the school’s senior vice president of institutional advancement.  The worldwide protests for racial justice last year following the police killing of George Floyd, along with how the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately harmed some communities of color, have amplified the school’s mission, Harris added.

Other higher ed experts echoed those comments. ““People are wanting to give because they want to see us break some of these systems that prevent the success of many individuals,” said Rob Henry, vice president of education at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. “This is why we see this giving to historically Black colleges and universities and other (minority-serving institutions).”

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