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Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are effective in how they enroll students from low-income backgrounds and graduate them into good-paying jobs, according to a report released by the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute (FDPRI) at the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).  FDPRI is a leading research organization focusing on the educational status of African Americans from pre-school to and through college.


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The report titled: “HBCUs Transforming Generations: Social Mobility Outcomes for HBCU Alumni” was the topic of recent discussion during a Twitter town hall hosted by UNCF. The Twitter chat was moderated by Jamal Watson, professor of communications at Trinity Washington University, and a contributor to Diverse: Issues In Higher Education. The panel of leaders and speakers in higher education included Roslyn Clark Artis, president, Benedict College; Jessmine Cornelius, program coordinator, UNCF Institute for Capacity Building; Charlie Nelms,  higher education consultant; and Walter Kimbrough, president, Dillard University.

The UNCF report offers an in-depth review of the “move into middle class+ mobility rate” and its efficiency as a measure of social mobility for Black students attending HBCUs. It provides a breakdown of access, success, and social mobility rates of HBCUs, Ivy Plus institutions, the nationwide average, and the averages of non-college attendees.

Major findings of the report:

The “move into middle class+ mobility rate” accounts for more movement between socioeconomic classes than other popular mobility rates used to measure American students’ upward mobility. HBCUs serve more economically disenfranchised students than most U.S. institutions.

The percentage of HBCUs that educate low-income students in comparison to the nationwide average is nearly 30% higher. When compared to other institutional types, HBCUs’ average access rate is more than twice that of all institutions nationwide and five times that of “Ivy Plus” institutions. These access rates reflect the fact that more than 70% of HBCU students are Pell Grant-eligible, and 39% are first-generation college students.

On average and across institution type, when it comes to mobility rates HBCUs outperform all other categories and are double the national rate, being the primary post-secondary driver for moving Black Americans from poverty to the middle class.

“These findings demonstrate that investment in HBCUs builds institutions that are primary drivers of success for historically marginalized people. Contributing to the advancement of an HBCU directly influences the continued improvement of economic outcomes for Black Americans—and by extension, our society-at-large,” said Dr. Nadrea Njoku, interim director, Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute, UNCF. “This report offers an equity-centered approach to understanding higher education outcomes for underserved students. The ultimate goal of a college degree is to fuel factual learning, maturity and growth, and economic prosperity. Our research shows HBCUs contribute mightily to our well-being as a nation.”

According to the report, social mobility has emerged as a primary measure for understanding the return on investment for the families of college students as well as society more broadly. The report illustrates the effectiveness of HBCUs in educating African Americans and leading them to higher earnings after graduating from college.

UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, supports and strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically Black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20% of African American baccalaureate degrees.

UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, ‟A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”


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