The Important Role of HBCUs in Higher Education and Why They Need More Support
Sallie Mae Hosted Delaware State University President Dr. Tony Allen to Discuss Significance and Support of HBCUs
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) comprise only three percent of the country’s colleges and universities yet produce almost 20% of all African American graduates. In a post-pandemic era with economic challenges disproportionately hitting underserved and underrepresented communities, choosing an HBCU is critical for so many students’ higher education experience.
Dr. Tony Allen, president of Delaware State University – the state’s only HBCU – and Chair of the Historically Black College and University Advisory Board under President Biden, recently visited Sallie Mae’s Newark headquarters to share insights about the role HBCUs play in advancing access and completion in higher education, and how the private sector can further support those efforts. For Sallie Mae, supporting HBCUs has remained a focus, particularly through scholarship programs and financial education initiatives. Dr. Allen and Sallie Mae Chief Diversity Officer Lori Aiken spoke spiritedly to a standing room only audience and over 500 more telecasted about the value of an education at HBCUs and how they help in building a stronger, more inclusive, higher education system.
Some highlights and key takeaways from that conversation:
1. HBCUs play a critical role in our country.
“Today’s 101 public and private HBCUs graduate more than 300,000 students annually; generate nearly $15 billion in direct economic impact; and produce 80% of Black judges; 40% of Black science professionals; 70% of Black medical professionals, and 40% of Black Members of Congress. In no small measure, HBCUs are the driving forces of Black social mobility, the defining voices of Black America, and a critical part of American global competitiveness,” Dr. Allen said.
2. Scholarships matter for minority students and students from underserved communities.
Scholarships open the door to higher education for students and families who otherwise may not have access to the opportunities. Delaware State University’s Inspire Scholarship provides a free four years of tuition to qualifying Delaware high school seniors. Students with a 2.75 GPA and a willingness to complete 10 hours of community service each semester are eligible.
Since launching the Inspire Scholarship, Delaware State University has seen a 15% increase in its enrollment.
“Not only are you getting a four-year tuition scholarship, but you’re also getting a quality education and citizenship training that comes with it,” Dr. Allen said.
To help support college access and completion, Sallie Mae partnered with The Thurgood Marshall College Fund to offer $3 million in scholarships to students from underserved communities.
To date, more than $1.5 million has already been awarded to students across the country. More than 70% of recipients of the company’s Completing the Dream Scholarship program — which removes financial barriers in the way of college completion – attended HBCUs.
3. Higher education needs reform to better serve those who need public support.
Dr. Allen shared a few ideas for building a stronger higher education system, speaking about the importance of increasing funding for HBCUs to put them on a more equal playing field with predominantly white institutions.
Dr. Allen also spoke about the importance of colleges increasing their graduations rates — a top focus at Delaware State — and encouraged the federal government to triple the Pell Grant. Closing gaps in college completion for Black students will take improving graduation rates at HBCUs; changing enrollment patterns so that selective institutions enroll more black students; and increasing the support that students receive in college so that they can persist through graduation day.
Sallie Mae is proud to be a leader in supporting HBCUs and their students. As the title sponsor of the HBCU Week 2022 College Fair in Walt Disney World – an event that draws more than 3,500 college seeking students to connect with HBCU representatives – Sallie Mae recognizes the significance of HBCUs, their rich history, and the ability to impact thousands of students looking for the opportunity to attend college. It’s opportunities and conversations like these that help Sallie Mae continue to transform into an education solutions company, as is our focus on additional services to support all students to, through, and immediately after college.