• Arsene Fréderiq


Updated: Sep 10

A 2017 UNCF study revealed two key findings that highlight the economic influence of the HBCU sector. One of the findings emphasized job creation by stating, “HBCUs annually generate 134,090 jobs and $14.8 billion in total economic impact for their local and regional economies” (Humphreys, 2017).

Another key finding is HBCU graduates from 2014 can expect total earnings of $130 billion over their lifetimes— 56 percent more than they could expect to earn without their college degrees (Humphreys, 2017).

Note. By UNCF, 2017, infographic

[HBCU Economic Impact]

Yet, by using 2014 data (Toldson, 2017) noted that, “Four traditionally White institutions (TWIs) received more revenue from grants and contracts than all four-year historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) combined.” Toldson continued by sharing, “in total, 89 four-year HBCUs collectively received $1.2 billion for grants and contracts from the federal, state, and local governments, as well as private foundations. By comparison, John Hopkins University received $1.6 billion alone (Toldson, 2017). In effect, these funding disparities create a caste system in higher education where better funded institutions can do more such as: provide enhanced facilities, equipment, and opportunities for students to earn income while doing research (Toldson, 2017).

HBCUs produced an outsize impact, while state and federal support has yet to match. Over time, without the funding and research support, HBCUs continue to compete on an un-level playing field.

To foster a collaborative environment that emphasizes the importance of HBCU research, the Princeton Alliance for Collaborative Research and Innovation (PACRI) has partnered with the UNCF and five HBCUs. The five institutions apart of this alliance are: Howard University, Jackson State University, Spelman College, Prairie View A&M University, and University of Maryland at Eastern Shore. According to Tod Hamilton who is a Princeton professor and co-lead for this project,

The new program is not limited to STEM; PACRI aims to provide funding across all academic divisions. A commitment to the liberal arts is at the core of Princeton University’s mission. Advancing scholarship in the humanities and social sciences is a critical goal of the new alliance (Princeton University, 2022).

This new partnership has received much praise from various stewards of the HBCU sector. U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey offered the following sentiments,

I’m very excited about the potential of collaborative projects between Princeton University researchers and their HBCU partners...Princeton University has long led the way in innovative research in STEM, social sciences and the humanities....Much of the output would likely never happen without these collaborative efforts. I applaud all the institutions involved and look forward to seeing all of what they achieve (Princeton University, 2022).

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas also emphasized the importance of collaboration. She said,

As Chairwoman of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, I am excited about the work we are doing to chart a course for the future of innovation in this country. However, we cannot expect to address the enormous challenges we face if we don’t leverage all the STEM talent in this country.....The faculty partnerships supported through PACRI will pay dividends in expanding, enriching, and accelerating our scientific enterprise (Princeton University, 2022).


Institutional resources is an indicator that details an institution's ability to execute a robust research agenda (Phoenix & Henderson, 2016). Notably, HBCU Presidents have become increasingly innovative with their fundraising strategies to generate funds for their respective institutions (Betton, 2018). Tennessee State University (TSU) President Glenda Glover describes the intricacies of fundraising and innovation as a HBCU President in a 2021 interview with Bloomberg Quicktake. She mentions the role of funding in achieving student success outcomes and the state of Tennessee's lack of commitment to HBCUs and post-secondary education as mandated by the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1890 (Bloomberg Quicktake, 2021). In the same interview, Tennessee State Representative Harold Love Jr describes the impact of chronic underfunding at TSU,

So you create this environment where you have deferred maintenance on building, you have lower scholarship offerings for students, you have lower salaries for teachers and you most certainly have lower endowment levels for your university (Bloomberg Quicktake, 2021).

Though this is an example of one HBCUs experience with funding and resources, a popular narrative describes the nurturing mission, increased funding and growing visibility as a modern renaissance for HBCUs (Green, 2022). More importantly, President Biden's executive order and historic funding has generated much support from organizations and institutions alike from various sectors. However, many in the HBCU community remain vigilant about the described renaissance due to the history of HBCUs in the U.S (Hilton, 2022). Underfunding by state and federal also stifles and institutions ability to augment their grant-making and fundraising capacities (Toldson, 2017). HBCU research programs have been cited as great investments due to their impact (Beech et al., 2020). Yet, equitable participation and funding resources from competitive research and grant funding remains a challenge (Beech et al., 2020). Furthermore, Shavers et al., (2005) concluded that a significant amount of winners for grant money are professors at well-resourced institutions. Despite this shift in U.S higher education, there still remains a challenge for HBCUs when it comes to resources, fundraising and endowments (Williams, 2010)(Drezner & Gupta, 2012). This is relevant, because institutional resources are indicative of an institution's ability to operationalize their research agenda’s (Drezner & Gupta, 2012).

According to Princeton University's dean for research,

By creating a mechanism that encourages faculty from Princeton and HBCUs to work together, we hope to spark the creation of new teams of researchers that bring together people with different perspectives, experiences and expertise. The potential to generate new knowledge and discoveries across a wide range of disciplines is very exciting (Bloomberg Quicktake, 2021).

PACRI broadens opportunity for collaboration across institutions. It also emphasizes the value of HBCUs in the research ecosystem to public and private foundations, and government sponsored grant-making organizations. The UNCF continues to be a mainstay with over 78 years of advocacy for HBCUs in the higher education discourse. Collaboration is a powerful tool to address the relevant issues of higher education governance and administration. The PACRI can serve as a model for organizations and institutions of all types when it comes to envisioning HBCU research as valuable and necessary for the creation of new knowledge.



Beech, B. M., Norris, K. C., Thorpe, R. J., Jr, Heitman, E., & Bruce, M. A. (2020). Conversation Cafés and Conceptual Framework Formation for Research Training and Mentoring of Underrepresented Faculty at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Obesity Health Disparities (OHD) PRIDE Program. Ethnicity & disease, 30(1), 83–90. https://doi.org/10.18865/ed.30.1.83

Bloomberg Quicktake. (2021, November 16). Why HBCU's Are Still Fighting For Equal Funding [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORnu4ooF7nI

Drezner, N. & Gupta, A. (2012). Busting the myth: Understanding endowment management at public historically black colleges and universities, The Journal of Negro Education 81(2), 107–120. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/806923

Green, E. (2022, June 11). Why Students Are Choosing H.B.C.U.s: ‘4 Years Being Seen as Family’. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/11/us/hbcu-enrollment-black-students.html

Hilton, A. (2022, July 27). Let’s Get an Amen on Who Can Legitimately Be Called an HBCU Expert. Diverse Issues in Higher Education. https://www.diverseeducation.com/opinion/article/15294561/lets-get-an-amen-on-who-can-legitimately-be-called-an-hbcu-expert

Humphreys, J. (2017). HBCUs Make America Strong: The Positive Economic Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Washington, DC: UNCF Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute. https://cdn.uncf.org/wp-content/uploads/HBCU_Consumer_Brochure_FINAL_APPROVED.pdf?_ga=2.256027915.1883762689.1662730962-497651636.1658890671

Phoenix, & Henderson, M. (2016). Expanding Library Support for Faculty Research in Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Journal of Library Administration, 56(5), 572–594. https://doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2016.1180939

Princeton University. (2022, May 4). Princeton partners with UNCF and HBCUs to expand research and innovation [Press release]. https://www.princeton.edu/news/2022/05/04/princeton-partners-uncf-and-hbcus-expand-research-and-innovation

Shavers, V. L., Fagan, P., Lawrence, D., McCaskill-Stevens, W., McDonald, P., Browne, D., McLinden, D., Christian, M., & Trimble, E. (2005). Barriers to racial/ethnic minority application and competition for NIH research funding. Journal of the National Medical Association, 97(8), 1063–1077.

Toldson, I. A. (2017). Drivers and barriers of success for HBCU researchers submitting STEM proposals to the National Science Foundation (editor's commentary). Journal of Negro Education, 86(4), 415-421. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/802705

Williams, M. G. (2010). Increasing philanthropic support through entrepreneurial activities at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. International Journal of Educational Advancement, 10(3), 216-229.https://doi.org/10.1057/ijea.2010.18

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