NEW YORK — The HBCU Transformation Project, a coalition of 40 historically Black colleges and universities, on Wednesday announced a $124 million gift from philanthropic funders Blue Meridian Partners to increase enrollment, graduation rates and employment rates for the schools' graduates.
Michael Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF, which is acting as an intermediary overseeing the funding, called the donation a vote of confidence in the coalition, which includes public and private schools.
“This very significantly scaled grant from them signals to the philanthropic community that this is a really good investment to make,” he said of the Blue Meridian gift.
The donation will expand the work of the project, which has already received $75 million from Blue Meridian Partners since 2020. Part of those funds arrived at the start of the pandemic to help participating HBCUs cover their operating costs when the schools had to close.
UNCF, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), and Partnership for Education Advancement jointly oversee the grant, though most funds will go directly to the participating schools. Blue Meridian Partners also provided funds to those organizations to improve their capacity to support the schools.
The project has already invested in new software to help schools speed up the enrollment process and financial aid applications. By sharing some of these new services, the schools are helping keep costs down, Lomax said.
In legislation passed after the pandemic, HBCUs have received almost $6 billion in funding and support from federal agencies, including the canceling of $1.6 billion in debt held by the Department of Education, according to the White House.
HBCUs have received significantly less support from philanthropic foundations than predominantly white schools. A recent study of giving conducted by the philanthropic research group Candid and ABFE, a nonprofit that advocates for investments in Black communities, found that the eight Ivy League schools received $5.5 billion from the 1,000 largest U.S. foundations compared to $45 million for the 99 HBCUs in 2019. Between 2002 and 2019, foundation support of HBCUs declined 30%, even before inflation is taken into account.
Private support for HBCUs has increased since 2020, in response to the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd, with corporations especially keen to both provide funding and to partner with schools on workforce development.