Nonprofit Donates $124 Million to Transform HBCUs

The donation will help at least 40 historically Black colleges and universities boost their graduation and enrollment rates.
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Updated on September 15, 2023
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  • A nonprofit, funded in part by Bill and Melinda Gates' foundation, donated $124 million to the HBCU Transformation Project.
  • Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) receive less funding than predominantly white institutions (PWIs).
  • The project aims to close the funding gap between HBCUs and their PWI counterparts.

Blue Meridian Partners, a philanthropic group, donated $124 million to the HBCU Transformation Project, which aims to improve enrollment and graduation rates at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The Transformation Project is a collaboration between the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and Partnership for Education Advancement. By supporting its 40 partner HBCUs, the collaboration's goal is to help repair the damage the pandemic did to Black and brown communities.

"For more than a century, HBCUs have been vital engines for economic and social mobility in the United States. … With this latest investment, we hope to accelerate the pace of change and strengthen these vital institutions and the students they serve at scale," Jim Shelton, Blue Meridian Partners' president and chief investment and impact officer, said in a press release.

How the Project Will Help Transform HBCUs

The HBCU Transformation Project will use the funds to achieve a few key goals:

  • Improve student outcomes at HBCUs
  • Help HBCUs innovate and improve their performance
  • Create a network for HBCUs to collaborate nationally
  • Level the funding disparities HBCUs face

But the Transformation Project's goals don't end with helping HBCUs. The collaboration aims to assist the Black community as well.

Creating More Black Graduates

HBCUs represent just 3% of higher education institutions — and receive much less funding — yet they produce almost 20% of Black graduates, according to UNCF.

And the project already showed promise even before the $124 million donation. After the project funded new artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives at South Carolina State University, its enrollment is up 54%.

The HBCU Transformation Project wants to help HBCUs enroll 90,000 and graduate 22,000 additional students in the next three years, so HBCUs can continue to chip away at the racial wealth gap.

Extending the HBCU Pipeline to Black Wealth

By graduating more HBCU students, the HBCU Transformation Project projects an annual $1.1 billion increase in Black wealth.

"HBCUs have always been an express train to the Black middle class, and to keep that going, we need to accelerate our collaborative work and identify solutions that help maximize our students' path to success," Dr. Harry L. Williams, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, said in the press release.

"We're thrilled that major donors and philanthropies are showing a new interest in HBCUs, and we welcome their support. It's long past time for HBCUs to get the resources they deserve."