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Saturday January 28th

Economic impact of HBCUs is almost $15 billion, study finds

<p>Students at N.C. Central University, one of UNC system's five HBCUs. Photo courtesy of Keisha Williams.&nbsp;</p>
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Students at N.C. Central University, one of UNC system's five HBCUs. Photo courtesy of Keisha Williams. 

American Historically Black Colleges and Universities contribute $14.8 billion to the U.S. economy, according to a new study.

The study, published by the United Negro College Fund, hopes to motivate further investments into America’s 101 HBCUs. It states HBCUs create over 134,000 jobs, and every dollar spent on HBCUs yields positive economic returns. 

According to the report, almost $10 billion of the total impact are from public institutions like N.C. Central University and Winston-Salem State University.

Henry McKoy, a business professor at NCCU, said HBCUs should be invested in both publicly and privately. Public HBCUs are largely funded publicly and McKoy hopes corporations and businesses will begin to invest more in the schools. 

“What it’s trying to show is that HBCUs shouldn’t be undervalued — they should be invested in,” he said.

Zagros Madjd-Sadjadi, an economics professor at WSSU, said the importance of HBCUs goes beyond traditional economic impact.

“What we really should be focusing on is the fact that you’re taking a number of individuals – for whom education would not have been possible if you don’t have the HBCUs – and making them college graduates, and then allowing them to become productive members of our society,” he said.

McKoy said HBCUs have a historical and current importance in America. About 300,000 students attended HBCUs and about 9 percent of black college students were enrolled in HBCUs in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. 

Madjd-Sadjadi said the report is not fully representing the impact of HBCUs.

“That 14.8 billion — that’s actually underestimated,” he said. “I’m currently working on the economic impact for our university, and we’re showing probably somewhere in the neighborhood of four-to-five hundred million dollars impact. That’s because you have to also consider the fact that many of the individuals who graduate from an HBCU would never have gotten the opportunity to go to college at all if we weren’t here.”

Madjd-Sadjadi said HBCUs could even produce larger economic impacts because they are access-based institutions that provide college educations to people who would otherwise not receive it. 

“We have a role to play. I always like to point out that our role to play is not just for African-Americans, it’s for all North Carolinians who don’t have opportunities – we’re an access-based institution,” he said. “The average African-American male who graduates from an HBCU can expect to receive 10 percent higher pay over their lifetime than if they had graduated from a predominantly white institution.”

McKoy said he hopes the recent report could help bring in more investments for HBCUs, which would increase their economic impacts even more.

“A lot of HBCUs are way under resourced," he said. "And if they’re able to create that kind of impact being under resourced, if they were able to get adequate investments and resources, imagine the kind of impact they could have then."


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