By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
To help fortify historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) nationwide, the HBCU Transformation Project has garnered a substantial $124 million investment from Blue Meridian Partners. The infusion of capital elevates the total investment in the project to an impressive $184 million. The initiative, launched in 2022, is a collaborative endeavor between the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), and Partnership for Education Advancement (Ed Advancement).
The HBCU Transformation Project is intensely engaged with forty HBCUs, and additional campuses are poised to join in the coming year. The project aims to drive systemic improvements in HBCUs, bolstering their role as pivotal engines of educational opportunity and social mobility for Black and low-income students.
The lion’s share of the fresh $124 million injection will go toward high-impact initiatives at individual HBCUs. This will encompass fortifying technological infrastructure, pioneering transformative curricular and administrative strategies, and piloting collaborative platforms for staff development, shared procurement, and related endeavors. UNCF, TMCF, and Ed Advancement will also receive support to lead and coordinate the HBCU Transformation Project and spearhead a significant capital campaign to bridge the longstanding funding disparities between HBCUs and other higher education institutions.
In a news release, UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax emphasized the project’s forward-looking vision. “The Transformation Project will ensure that HBCUs continue to be drivers of economic mobility and champions for racial equity long into the future,” Lomax asserted.
According to the release, the HBCU Transformation Project sets forth several core objectives:
1. Augmenting enrollment and retention rates at HBCUs, enhancing graduation rates, and equipping students for prosperous careers.
2. Amplifying institutional performance, fortitude, and innovation pace at HBCUs.
3. Facilitating collaborative efforts among HBCUs, harnessing collective expertise and influence to showcase the power of a networked approach.
4. Remedying historical funding imbalances, enabling HBCUs to possess the resources necessary for sustained growth and triumph.
HBCUs have long been at the vanguard of providing higher education opportunities for Black and low-income students, accounting for nearly 20% of Black college graduates despite constituting only three percent of higher education institutions. “The HBCU Transformation Project will deliver permanent, sustainable, and systemic improvement,” said James Runcie, CEO and Co-Founder of the Partnership for Education Advancement.
The decision by Blue Meridian Partners to increase their investment is predicated on the favorable outcomes reported by the HBCU Transformation Project in its initial phase. Notably, HBCU enrollment has experienced a marked upswing since the peak of the COVID pandemic during the 2020-2021 academic year, with individual institutions reporting historic growth.
For instance, South Carolina State University has witnessed a 174% surge in applications since 2020, accompanied by a 54% spike in enrollment. The surge can be chiefly attributed to investments in technology facilitated by the Transformation Project, including cutting-edge AI platforms and CRM software solutions. The tools have streamlined the application and financial aid process for students. Similarly, Claflin University celebrated its highest-ever enrollment figures last year, and Morehouse College achieved significant strides in student retention through innovative support strategies.
“HBCUs will be at the leading edge of transformation,” said Jim Shelton, President and Chief Investment and Impact Officer of Blue Meridian Partners. HBCUs have produced over a million degrees since 1984, spanning associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral levels. They are responsible for 40% of Black engineers and 40% of Black Congress members, and they play pivotal roles in numerous other professions.
Over the next three years, the HBCU Transformation Project aims to narrow the widening wealth gap between HBCUs and other higher education institutions, projecting a 40% increase in enrolled students and a 54% surge in HBCU graduates. “It’s long past time for HBCUs to get the resources they deserve,” said Dr. Harry L. Williams, President and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.