- On Monday, the Department of Commerce gave more than 30 HBCUs $96.8 million in grants.
- This week’s grants were the last in a series of disbursements that started in July. Overall, 43 HBCUs received funding.
- The grants are part of the Biden Administration’s 2022 multi-billion dollar Internet for All Initiative, which aims to give all Americans access to affordable, reliable and high-speed internet.
This week, multiple HBCUs announced nearly the same thing: they were receiving millions from the federal government to improve their broadband internet access. The rash of releases came after the Department of Commerce on Monday gave more than 30 HBCUs $96.8 million in grants as part of the Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program. But what is more important than the value of the grants is what they represent — an expansion of opportunities for HBCU students, faculty and the surrounding community.
The CMC program was born out of the Biden Administration’s 2022 multi-billion dollar Internet for All Initiative, which aims to give all Americans access to affordable, reliable and high-speed internet. To help achieve that goal, the administration set aside $268 million to specifically help HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions buy equipment, and hire and train information technology professionals.
This week’s grants were the last in a series of disbursements that started in July. Overall, 43 HBCUs received funding.
- Alabama State University: $2,999,695.37
- Albany State University: $2,997,777.00
- American Baptist Theological Seminary: $2,992,248.23
- Benedict College: $2,893,457.00
- Bennett College: $699,950.00
- Central State University: $3,000,000.00
- Claflin University: $2,999,450.00
- Coppin State University: $3,990,880.00
- Drake State Community and Technical College: $2,413,182.20
- Elizabeth City State University: $2,131,383.00
- Fayetteville State University: $4,933,021.00
- Florida A&M University: $5,395,671.00
- Fort Valley State University: $2,997,558.00
- Grambling State University: $2,218,696.00
- H. Councill Trenholm State Community College: $2,066,454.00
- Jarvis Christian College: $1,183,089.00
- Johnson C. Smith University: $5,720,896.00
- Lane College: $472,005.48
- Lincoln University of Pennsylvania: $2,998,303.86
- Lincoln University of Missouri: $2,980,070.84
- Morehouse School of Medicine: $4,231,058.00
- Morgan State University: $4,115,616.00
- Norfolk State University: $3,898,789.00
- North Carolina A&T State University: $3,686,697.00
- North Carolina Central University: $2,996,134.00
- Paul Quinn College: $2,999,677.18
- Philander Smith College: $2,999,903.00
- Prairie View A&M University: $3,000,000.00
- Saint Augustine’s University: $1,943,715.00
- Shaw University: $5,072,045.00
- Simmons College of Kentucky, Inc.: $2,762,100.00
- Southern University and A&M College: $6,227,200.00
- Southern University at New Orleans: $3,000,000.00
- Southern University Law Center: $3,029,484.79
- Stillman College: $2,774,257.37
- Talladega College: $2,969,121.59
- Texas College: $2,152,778.26
- Tuskegee University: $3,569,618.00
- University of Maryland Eastern Shore: $2,999,999.89
- University of the Virgin Islands: $2,990,594.00
- Virginia State University: $2,799,180.00
- Virginia Union University: $2,987,765.00
- Wilberforce University: $2,066,822.86
Improving HBCUs and their surrounding communities
With the funding, the schools will be able to update their broadband and other technological infrastructure, chiseling away at the $81 million in deferred maintenance expenses the average HBCU has. The schools, which are concentrated in the South, will also be able to provide improved internet access for their communities.
According to a Joint Center report, Black rural Americans are hit the hardest when it comes to broadband access. In the Black Rural South, 38 percent of African Americans report lacking home internet access. By comparison, 23 percent of white Americans in the Black Rural South do not have access to the internet.
“We are excited to receive these grant funds from [the Department of Commerce] to connect with Mercy House/MAP Center to build digital skills and broadband awareness for many individuals who are often underserved as well as to build the digital skills and IT workforce capacity in Montgomery,” Kemba Chambers, president of the Alabama-based H. Councill Trenholm State Community College, said in a statement.
President Chambers is not alone in planning to use the money for the wider community. The American Baptist College in Nashville aims to identify “digital deserts” in a 15-mile radius of the college and help those communities.
Virginia Union University will be providing complimentary broadband access and loaned equipment like laptops, tablets, hotspots and routers to students and community members.
Alabama State University plans to provide its surrounding community with a digital technology center to give local residents access to both digital technologies and digital navigation services.
Some of the recipients of the Internet for All grants are also using the funding to upgrade their cybersecurity.
“ASU will establish a hybrid cloud infrastructure and maintain a cybersecurity program that provides comprehensive strategic planning, governance, and advisory consulting support,” Tanjula Petty, assistant provost for Student Success and Special Initiatives at Alabama State, said in a statement.
The CMC program is not the only initiative that is working to upgrade IT infrastructure at HBCUs. In 2021, the non-profit Student Freedom Initiative (SFI) launched an effort to improve HBCUs’ infrastructure at no cost so they could comply with a new rule that requires schools to have a secure IT system if they want to continue to receive certain federal funding. Student aid programs like Pell Grants, work-study and some federal loans could all be impacted if schools did not upgrade their systems. Cisco has given more than $100 million in labor, expertise, materials and supplies to SFI’s initiative.
When the pandemic first hit, HBCUs were unprepared for the sudden, overwhelming shift to online learning. But over the past three years, through a sustained combination of government, private and philanthropic funding and support, HBCUs are getting their infrastructure up to par.