New $25 Million Initiative Launched to Support Leadership and Economic Mobility of HBCU Students

Dozens of historically Black colleges and universities have joined a new $25 million initiative that will provide select students scholarships and leadership development opportunities in order to help students prepare for future careers. The funding is coming from Strada Education Network, an organization that works to increase access to higher education and students’ future upward economic mobility.

“​​As an organization that thinks deeply about the connection between learning and economic mobility, we have long valued the impact of historically Black colleges and universities,” Tom Dawson, interim president and CEO of Strada Education Network, said in a statement.

“This initiative is about learning from institutions that outperform their peers when it comes to vaulting students into the top income quintile as adults,” Dawson continued.

Over the past year Strada has met with seven current and former HBCU presidents to identify needs and opportunities it could support, now providing funding to augment existing programs.

One predominantly Black institution and 27 HBCUs are part of the inaugural 2021-2022 Strada Scholars cohort. Each school will select three students each year for four years, for a total of 12 Strada Scholars per school, according to Inside Higher Ed. Each scholar will get a $7,000 annual scholarship and the school will get up to $2,400 per student to offer internship support and leadership development resources. HBCU presidents will also have the chance to convene annually to share best practices.

With this funding structure, each school would receive at least $28,200 each year for four years, far less than the estimated $223,200 the schools would receive per year if the $25 million grant was split evenly among all the schools. It is unclear where the additional funding will go. 

“After consistently demonstrating strong [return on investment] and accelerated economic and social mobility outcomes for our students, the HBCU community stands together in this critical moment of opportunity,” Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University and the incoming Chair of the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs at the White House, said in a statement.

Among college graduates, HBCU students are more likely to reach rungs of the economic ladder that are higher than their families. A 2018 study found that 9.4 percent of students at non-minority serving institutions who came from families in the bottom two income quintiles were able to move to the top two as adults. That share more than doubles for HBCU students, at 19.3 percent.

One of the reasons HBCUs are such strong drivers of upward mobility is because they accept larger numbers of low-income students than other institutions. More than 75 percent of HBCU students rely on Pell Grants, the federal grant program for undergraduates with exceptional financial need, according to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Strada hopes its funding will help lower the cost of tuition, cover expenses during internships and help HBCU students build their professional networks in order to accelerate their upward economic trajectory. In the years to come, Strada plans to expand the initiative to any HBCU that wants to participate.

Participating HBCUs:

  • Alabama State University
  • Albany State University
  • Alcorn State University
  • Benedict College
  • Bennett College
  • Bowie State University
  • Central State University
  • Claflin University
  • Delaware State University
  • Fayetteville State University
  • Fort Valley State University
  • Florida A&M University
  • Harris-Stowe State University
  • Jarvis Christian College
  • Johnson C. Smith University
  • Lincoln University (PA)
  • Livingstone College
  • Mississippi Valley State University
  • Paul Quinn College
  • Philander Smith College
  • Southern University at New Orleans
  • St. Philip’s College
  • Texas Southern University
  • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
  • Wiley College
  • Virginia State University
  • Virginia Union University

Participating PBI:

  • Chicago State University

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.