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Florida A&M University will participate in a groundbreaking project for HBCUs

FAMU Snake Statue
Patrick Sternad
WFSU Public Media
FAMU's Rattler statue on the Tallahassee campus

Florida A&M University (FAMU) has been selected to help launch the HBCU Transformation Project. The project’s purpose is to drive long-term progress across Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and impact the Black economy. It’s a collaboration between the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), UNCF (United Negro College Fund), and Partnership for Education Advancement

The pandemic was the catalyst for the project. “Our institutions had to go to this remote environment,” says Dr. Harry L. Williams, President & CEO of TMCF. “There was some concern about what's going to happen to the HBCUs. Will the students go back to school?”

Blue Meridian Partners, a pioneering philanthropic model for funding solutions to problems that limit economic and social mobility for America’s young people and families in poverty, committed an initial $60 million investment for the sustainability of HBCUs. The funding will be used for scholarships and to help attract and graduate more career-ready students.

FAMU is among the 20 institutions in the initial cohort. “They want to continue their growth. So we're helping them in areas to increase the number of students who are going to attend FAMU (and) increase the number of online students,” Williams says. “So we're providing resources and support and helping them build that out.”

The collaborators say 70% of the students who attend HBCUs are eligible for Pell Grants, which means they're from low-income families. 40% of the students are the first in their families to go to college.

“They want to move from poverty into the middle class, and they know that the best way to do that is to get a college degree and to have a 21st-century career,” says Dr. Michael L. Lomax, President, and CEO of UNCF. “So we know that scholarship support is going to be critically important - and growing the endowments of these institutions - so that they have resources that they can then invest in strategies.”

Lomax says 21st-century careers “require post-secondary credentials and degrees, are technology-driven, require strong communications skills, critical thinking, working in teams collaboratively, and continuous learning.”

Collaborators believe there's a potential $10 billion boost annually in growth in the Black economy if the HBCU Transformation Project can help accelerate the number of Black college graduates.

The goal is to eventually bring all 107 of America’s HBCUs into the project.

Participating HBCUs include the following, with more recipients in the coming weeks:

Alabama State University
Benedict College
Claflin University
Clark Atlanta University
Delaware State University
Dillard University
Florida A&M University
Hampton University
Huston-Tillotson University
Johnson C. Smith University
Morehouse College
Norfolk State University
North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University
South Carolina State University
Spelman College
Talladega College
Tuskegee University
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Wiley College
Winston Salem State University

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.