MacKenzie Scott’s Impact Persists Two Years Later, Howard’s Historic Research Haul and More HBCU Funding News


  • In the second half of October, HBCUs have announced more than $135 million in new funding for their respective schools.
  • Morgan State, Howard, Tuskegee and Spelman have all recently received backing from private and public sources.
  • These new funds have the potential to help HBCUs reach major institutional goals and help prepare students for the future of work.

Over the past two weeks, HBCUs have announced millions of dollars in grants and funding from state governments, major financial institutions, big tech companies and federal research organizations to help HBCUs reach major institutional goals and help prepare students for the future of work.

Here are five recent announcements that have the potential to greatly impact the HBCU landscape:

Morgan State University putting MacKenzie Scott HBCU funding toward new endowed professorship

Morgan State University is continuing its mission to become part of the upper echelon of research universities by creating a new research professorship, establishing a new Endowed Chair for the school’s Center for Urban Health Equity (CUHE), which launched in January 2021 to research and respond to the root issues that contribute to health inequity.

The State of Maryland is giving the Baltimore-based HBCU $1 million in funding, which Morgan State will match with $1 million from funds donated by philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

“The funds we are receiving come at an opportune time in the Center’s continued development, as they will support the addition of a new faculty member who has extensive experience in applied research of health equity and a passion for engaging with various communities,” Kim Dobson Sydnor, dean of the School of Community Health and Policy and current director of CUHE, said in a release.

In December 2020, Scott gave the school an unrestricted $40 million gift. Morgan State has already allocated $3 million of the fund to establish three endowed professorships in brain science, predictive analysis, and cybersecurity engineering and psychometrics. This will be the school’s fourth professorship in as many years.

Howard University brings in more than $100 million in research grants in one year

On October 21, Howard made a major announcement: the school had raised $122 million in research funding over FY 2022, a goal it had hoped to achieve in 2024 but reached two years early. 

“With this added funding, the research capacity of the university will be accelerated, allowing us to continue to conduct cutting-edge research on a larger scale commensurate with Howard University’s institutional mission: to forward the development of scholars and professionals who drive change,” Bruce Jones, Howard Vice President for Research, said in a statement.

Like Morgan State’s efforts to establish endowed professorships, increasing research grants is a step forward in Howard’s goal of becoming an R1 institution. This status is determined by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which classifies schools based on a variety of characteristics like doctoral degrees conferred and research spending.

There is an unofficial hierarchy system to the classifications that translates into real-world funding. Schools like Johns Hopkins University, MIT, Georgia Tech and Harvard University are recognized as R1, which Carnegie classifies as schools that have a very high degree of research activity. No HBCU currently has R1 status; Howard and Morgan State are R2 institutions, one tier below.

Tuskegee University awarded grant to create cancer research center

For the first time in the school’s 141-year history, Tuskegee has received a nearly $8 million grant to build a new biomedical annex, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“This is the first time TU has received an infrastructure grant of this size in a competitive arena and only the second science building to be built in the past 30 years and a third one in the past 70 years,” Channapatna Prakash, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said in a statement.

Researchers in the new 8,600-square-foot center will focus on computational and genomics related to health disparities. Through the new center, Tuskegee aims to increase the number of research faculty, and post-doctoral fellows engaged in health disparities and biomedical research. 

Construction is expected to begin next summer and be completed by spring 2025.

Spelman gets $5 million grant to capture data on Black women in STEM

This week, Spelman received the largest single grant that, the tech giant’s charitable arm, has awarded to support a project focused on women of color in STEM.

The all-female HBCU will work on developing a publicly accessible data dashboard to compile in one central hub research on the experiences and “untold stories” of Black women in science.

“Black women continue to play pivotal roles in various scientific disciplines,” Helene Gayle, President of Spelman, said in a release. “Being able to effectively document those efforts will strengthen our ability to elevate and value the voices, research, and intersectional experiences of these women.” will also provide a team of Google engineers, product managers, UX researchers and designers to work with Spelman full-time and pro bono to help build the dashboard.

American Express pledges $2 million to help HBCU students transition into careers

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF), an advocacy organization supporting 37 HBCUs, received the multi-million dollar pledge from the charitable arm of American Express with the goal of providing funding and opportunities to recent HBCU graduates.

Over the next three years, UNCF will use $1.5 million to fund $5,000 grants to 300 HBCU seniors that they can use post-graduation for things like job relocation, a down payment on a car or a general financial cushion.

Additionally, $500,000 will go towards UNCF’s existing K-12 initiative to prepare students for college.

American Express is also promising to create a job and internship pipeline for HBCU students and alumni into the company through webinars, recruiting events and a digital marketing campaign.

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.