“HBCUs Punching Above Their Weight,” a research report by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), makes a strong case for a powerful proposition: Given their small average size and a history of being under-resourced, the enrollment, degree and economic impacts of HBCUs on African Americans in their respective states are significantly greater than one would expect.
“Punching Above Their Weight” shows that, in their most important function — enrolling and graduating college students — HBCUs perform far better than their sizes and resources would lead one to expect. “The impact of HBCUs has been collectively downplayed, overlooked and undervalued, and the report illustrates what everyone who has graduated from or taught at an HBCU has long known,” said UNCF president and CEO Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D., “that for students in search of a higher education and for a country in urgent need of college-educated workers, a country rapidly becoming a majority-minority workforce, there’s no better choice than HBCUs.”
Taken state by state, “Punching Above Their Weight” demonstrates HBCUs’ “multiplier effect” is impressive. Some examples include:
- Florida HBCUs represent just 4 percent of the state’s four-year colleges and universities but enroll 9 percent of all black undergraduates in that state, and award 18 percent of all bachelor’s degrees to black college graduates.
- Louisiana HBCUs represent 19 percent of all colleges and universities in the state, but 38 percent of all black students and graduates.
- Virginia HBCUs represent just 11 percent of the state’s colleges and universities, but 29 percent of the state’s black college students and 32 percent of its black college graduates.
- Delaware’s sole HBCU represents 20 percent of the four-year institutions in the state but it enrolls 40 percent of the black undergraduates and awards 47 percent of bachelor’s degrees to black students in the state.
HBCUs are found across a wider swath of America than many realize — a region defined by Pennsylvania and Ohio in the North, Delaware in the East, Florida in the South, and Texas in the West. Their most pronounced concentration, however, is in the states of the Southeast, a region that the online publication National Real Estate Investor describes as an emerging “economic powerhouse.”
“The economic health of the country, and especially the economic health of the highly-diverse Southeast, is fueled by education,” Brian Bridges, Ph.D., UNCF’s vice president, Research and Member Engagement, said. “The current and future needs of employers, workers, and communities leaves us little choice but to invest in the proven capability of HBCUs to produce the results that our continued prosperity demands.”
“Punching Above Their Weight” is the most recent of a succession of studies released by UNCF’s research arm, the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute, that demonstrate the importance of HBCUs. Previous studies have found that HBCUs retain and graduate low-income and academically under-prepared African American students at higher rates than non-HBCUs; that total costs at UNCF-member HBCUs are lower than at comparable institutions and that HBCUs play a critical role in strengthening local, state and national economies.