Why People Are Giving More to HBCUs

How America’s race problem is spurring renewed support from black college alumni, and Black America at large.

How America’s race problem is spurring renewed support from black college alumni, and Black America at large.

Recent HBCU of the Year award winner North Carolina Central University announced today that it has passed its fundraising goal for the 2015–16 fiscal year, raising more than $7 million dollars from private donors, corporations and grants to exceed its original goal by more than $500,000.

Officials attributed to the boost to an ‘Every Eagle, Every Year’ donor cultivation program, and enhanced focus on encouraging young alumni to give back to the institution. According to data, 20 percent of the total gifts received this year were donated by graduates between the year 2000–2016, and more than 30 percent of all money was given by 3,400 alumni donors averaging $588 per gift.

NCCU is part of a growing number of HBCUs reporting increased alumni giving in the last year. Florida A&M University raised more than $6.5 million this past year, Dillard University set record highs in alumni giving percentage and money raised, exceeding $1.7 million. Last fall, Shaw University set a homecoming weekend record with more than $600,000 raised for scholarship support during its annual gala.

HBCUs are doing a much better job of campaigning and leveraging technology to make giving easier, competitive, and alive outside of the HBCU stereotype, with examples real and imagined, that you can’t trust what administrators will do with gifts.

But what has also changed is the unique position of black colleges within American contextual views of, and among, black people. Police murder of unarmed black men, micro-aggressions on predominantly white campuses against black men and women, mass incarceration, voter disenfranchisement, economic inequality, are nothing new.

But seeing them on YouTube is, relatively, brand new. Black folks acting on the cultural principle of ‘enough is enough’ is new in a #throwbackthursday kind of way. And because of this, there is a massive quest among the people to find something in which we can believe; a body, an idea, an entity that unites us under the concept of racial solidarity resurrected.

For some, it’s found on Facebook, Black Twitter, Black Tumblr and Black Snap, chronicling the transformation of community members from all areas of geography, income and culture from observers, to advocates, and to activists.

For others, its HBCUs — those familiar places that have long served has John Henry’s hammer to social constructs of white supremacy, privilege and hoarding of wealth.

But this vintage view of Black Americana is unraveling before our very eyes, and HBCUs are benefiting from the mass awakening. Black folks are beginning to understand that working hard, dressing well, speaking well, and wearing the mask won’t save our lives, or keep us from being brutalized — even if we do go to UVA. It won’t make us more accepted on the job, or more likely to get a small business loan, or happier with our college choices.

So now, HBCUs are surpassing application projections for the fall 2016 semester, and are set to admit the largest collective freshmen class since 2010, the 30-year apex of HBCU enrollment where more than 326,000 students nationwide were enrolled in a black college — only for that number to drop just one year later, after the Obama Administration changed eligibility standards for federal loan and grant programs predominantly accessed by low-income students at HBCUs.

Perhaps it is harsh realization more than cold reality that has convinced more black people to take advantage of resources built for us, but largely abandoned for the unbridled optimism of assimilation. Maybe tomorrow we’ll be woke enough to realize that the federal government is moving to shut down HBCUs and small colleges at large, but right now, we’ll celebrate the return of ‘the blacker the college, the sweeter the knowledge’ to the general lexicon.

And all it took was for hundreds of black men to be killed in the streets like dogs, millions of black men erased from society by the prison industry, and generations of black students to pledge wealth and affinity to universities which never have, and never will want them beyond the resources their bodies can afford through tuition and diversity metrics.