Metro-East News

Historically black colleges boost economy, grads’ earning potential, study shows

Historically black colleges receive only 3 percent of the nation’s federal aid, but generate nearly $15 billion into the economy and boost graduates’ earnings as much as 56 percent.

The historically black colleges and universities inject $14.8 billion a year into the U.S. economy, according to a study released this week by the United Negro College Fund. For every dollar spent by the colleges and their students, approximately $1.44 is generated in the colleges’ local and regional economies.

Many such colleges are located in southern communities where the overall economic growth has lagged, according to UNCF.

“This study is conclusive evidence that (historically black colleges and universities) not only provide a college education for 300,000 students every year, but they are a powerful economic engine: locally, through the jobs they create and the expenditures they make in the cities where they are located, through the students the educate and prepare for an information-age workforce,” said Dr. Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund.

Dr. Brian Bridges, vice president of research, said many of the students who attend historically black colleges come from low-income families and are the first in their families to attend college. They help the national economy fill critical jobs with college-educated workers who would not otherwise be able to acquire those skills and knowledge to compete, he said.

Among other statistics:

▪ Historically black colleges generate approximately 134,000 jobs, including on- and off-campus.

▪ The colleges generate enough of an economic impact to rank among the top 200 of the Fortune 500.

▪ More than 50,000 students graduated from historically black colleges in 2014, and will earn 56 percent more than they could earn without their degrees. That’s an expected work-life earnings of $130 billion — an additional $927,000 per graduate.

▪ Historically black colleges comprise 3 percent of the nonprofit colleges that receive federal student aid, but enroll 10 percent of black undergraduates, 17 percent of bachelor’s degrees to black students, and 24 percent of STEM bachelor’s degrees for black students.

“The future economic competitiveness of our nation hinges on the positive economic outcomes of our young people,” said Brandee McHale, president of Citi Foundation, which provided funding for the project in cooperation with UNCF and the University of Georgia. “These impactful institutions have long contributed to the fabric of our nation and continue to fuel economic progress, which has a profound ripple effect on the strength of our families, communities and businesses.”

Before the Civil War, very few colleges were dedicated to educating black students. Three such institutes were founded before the Civil War, in Pennsylvania and Ohio. After the Civil War, land-grant universities began to form, often in the southern states. By 1953, 32,000 students were enrolled in historic colleges such as Howard University, Spelman College and Fisk University.

Now there are 101 accredited historically black colleges and universities in 19 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Approximately 80 percent of their students are black, and 70 percent are from low-income families. According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 80 percent of the black graduates who received degrees in medicine and dentistry were educated at Howard and Meharry Medical College, both historically black colleges. They also provide undergraduate training for 75 percent of all black people holding a doctorate, serving as an officer in the armed forces, and 80 percent of all black federal judges.

There are no historically black colleges and universities in Illinois that were included in the study. In Missouri, the two colleges included were Lincoln University in Jefferson City and Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.

According to the study, Harris-Stowe has an economic impact of $65 million, 674 jobs (approximately half of which are on-campus) and $335 million in lifetime earnings for its graduates. For every dollar spent by Harris-Stowe and its students, $1.69 is generated for the local economy. Approximately 132 students graduated in 2014, and can expect to earn 77 percent more than they would earn without their degrees, according to the studies and projections of their degree programs.

The full study and economic profiles of all 100 colleges can be viewed online.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald