2018 Midterm Elections – What’s at Stake for HBCU Communities?

As thousands of students, faculty, and staff head to the polls today to finish out a historic midterm election season, here is a guide to HBCU issues that may not be on the ballot but which should be top of mind for consideration at the ballot box.


Competitive state legislative races in several districts will shape the balance of influence over gerrymandering laws in states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina which could transform black voting blocs in several congressional districts. These blocs could shape the very survival of institutions, state lawmakers in Pennsylvania may soon determine if Cheyney University will be consolidated with another public institution or the future of possible merger or acquisition for Bennett College in Greensboro.

Funding Issues

While leaders at every public HBCU would list funding as the number one issue facing their campuses, some issues are in particular focus for this election cycle. In Maryland, Democratic nominee Ben Jealous looks to unseat incumbent Republican Larry Hogan to represent one of the key voices on a determination to settle the judgment against the state from alumni and students of Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore for illegal program duplication and resulting underfunding.

Elections in Missouri will dictate if schools like Lincoln University and Harris Stowe State University, which have suffered dramatic cuts in recent years, will be able to maintain stable appropriations from the state or to advocate for fair metrics in performance-based funding models.

In West Virginia, additional funding is under review by the state’s higher education commission, but also faces opposition from dueling philosophies on the role of the state’s higher education policy commission and a governor-appointed blue ribbon commission to review efficiency in the state system.

College Access

Virginia’s colleges and universities awarded a record number of degrees and certifications during the 2017-18 academic year. Of the 16,372 African Americans to earn those credentials, 2,411 or 14% were produced by Hampton University, Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, and Virginia Union University. Legislators will be charged with determining ways to level those gains in degree access, particularly among HBCUs as the state’s larger institutions develop access pathways for low-income students.

Population Changes

In rural states like Kentucky, West Virginia, and Mississippi, departing citizens mean fewer bodies for college enrollment, tuition revenue and economic development. But states like Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee are growing and creating opposite outcomes for college access and economic development needs.