EXCLUSIVE: HBCU Endowments Grew By More Than One Billion Dollars in 2021


  • HBCUs saw a large growth in the values of their endowments, with Howard University continuing to have the largest fund.
  • MacKenzie Scott’s multi-million dollar donations have had a compounding effect on the HBCUs that received a gift.
  • However, vast inequalities between HBCU endowments and other institutions still exist.

In Fiscal Year 2021, the value of all HBCU endowments combined grew by approximately $1.3 billion, according to an analysis by The Plug of the latest financial data from the National Center for Education Statistics

The collective value of HBCU endowments is now more than $5.2 billion, compared to $3.9 billion in 2020, a 33 percent increase. This is a notable jump — from 2019 to 2020, the value of HBCU endowments only increased by $17.4 million.

The Plug analyzed financial reports from FY21, the most recent data available, which spanned summer 2020 to fall 2021. These reports are the first widescale look at how the increased attention and funding (most notably, $560 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott) that flowed to HBCUs after the murder of George Floyd impacted the schools.

Though endowments are just one facet of a school’s operations, they are key measures of their financial health and are pivotal in ensuring the long-term future of an institution. Endowments help fund budgets and can be turned to in times of economic hardship.

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    HBCUs with the largest endowments

    In FY21, more than $3 billion of the total value of HBCU endowments came from just 10 schools that have the largest funds out of more than 100 of their peers.

    1. Howard University: $806.4 million
    2. Spelman College: $570.8 million
    3. Hampton University: $379.9 million
    4. Morehouse College: $278 million
    5. Meharry Medical College: $199.4 million
    6. Xavier University of Louisiana: $191 million
    7. North Carolina A&T State University: $174.6 million
    8. Tuskegee University: $154.9 million
    9. Prairie View A & M University: $148.5 million
    10. Alabama State University: $130.5 million

    For years, Howard’s endowment has outpaced all other HBCUs and 2021 was no different. It grew by $93.9 million over the previous year, a 13 percent increase.

    MacKenzie Scott’s compounding impact

    The HBCU that saw the largest one-year change in its endowment was Bowie State University. The Maryland-based university saw its endowment increase by 250 percent from 2020 to 2021, from $11.2 million to $39.1 million. 

    This growth is due in large part to Scott’s $25 million unrestricted gift to Bowie State in December 2020. The school put the vast majority — $23 million — into its endowment, according to Brent Swinton, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Bowie State. But Scott’s donation also helped put the school on the radar of more donors.

    “The Scott gift brought BSU to the attention of larger-scale donors, and it has attracted funding from a broader range of constituents, including national and international donors,” Swinton told The Plug last winter.

    In FY21, Bowie State ended up receiving a total of $28.8 million in new gifts and additions for its endowment.

    In fact, eight out of the top 10 HBCUs that saw the largest one-year change in their endowment value received eight-figure gifts from Scott.

    1. Bowie State University: 250 percent increase
    2. North Carolina A&T State University: 137 percent increase
    3. Morgan State University: 134 percent increase
    4. University of Maryland Eastern Shore: 100 percent increase
    5. Fort Valley State University: 95 percent increase, did not receive a donation from Scott
    6. Morehouse College: 77 percent increase
    7. Virginia State University: 76 percent increase
    8. Prairie View A&M University: 72 percent increase
    9. Paul Quinn College: 71 percent increase, did not receive a donation from Scott
    10. Claflin University: 66 percent increase

    Vast inequalities still exist 

    But though HBCU endowments grew last year, decades of systematic underfunding cannot be overcome in just one year. In FY21, Harvard University’s endowment was $53 billion, more than 10 times the value of all HBCU endowments combined.

    Because the growth of an endowment often comes from the returns on the investments a school has made with the funds, inequalities can increase exponentially over time. Harvard’s endowment value has been above $5 billion since 1992, while HBCUs are just now reaching that level.

    As the FY21 data illustrates, this gap is too large to be overcome just by philanthropy but will take a larger sustained effort to address these disparities.

    Mirtha Donastorg

    Mirtha Donastorg is a corps member with Report for America and The Plug's HBCU Innovation Editor and Senior Reporter, exploring start-up initiatives and innovations coming from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as the way students are shaping the future of tech. She previously worked as an associate producer and a researcher for CNN.
    Contact: mirtha@tpinsights.com