A recent story in the Rochester Business Journal caught my eye:

“The University of Rochester said Monday it has received a $5 million gift to support its new undergraduate business major. The gift was given by Barry Florescue, an alumnus and member of UR’s board of trustees.”

This, people, is what keeps schools alive.

I was horrified to hear of recent budget cuts at my alma mater, which left some staff members unemployed and some degree programs nonexistent. “We have to do something!” we outraged alums all cried. Yeah, we have to Save Our Selves.

In an article for the Diverse Issues in Higher Education blog, University of Pennsylvania professor Dr. Marybeth Gasman wrote that alumni of black schools tend to band together when there’s a crisis, which is insufficient. We may think the annual hikes in tuition cover the gaps, but it’s consistent giving that sustains a university.

Of the nation’s 103 black colleges, only three have endowments in the top 300: Howard University, Spelman College and Hampton University. Low endowments mean fewer dollars available for operating costs and institutional financial aid, states the website Inside Higher Ed. It’s also noteworthy because most students who attend HBCUs receive some type of endowment-supported scholarship.

HBCU endowments are low for a variety of reasons. For one, even when size is taken into account, historically white institutions have received significantly more money from corporate sponsors. Also, it’s just a fact that historically, African-Americans have had less access to wealth. Today, the national unemployment rate is about 9 percent. For blacks, that figure is more than 16 percent!

Although institutional and systemic racism do factor into funding differences, this is still a situation we have the power to fix. The first part is getting a job (or creating a job) that will generate $5-mil in disposable income (haha) …

Seriously, we may not all be able to write fat checks like Mr. Florescue, but giving just $25 a year after you graduate will surely add up over your lifetime. Predominantly white institutions have alumni giving rates that range between 20 to 60 percent, while Black college alumni giving rates typically fall below 10 percent, according to a 2006 report in The National Journal for Publishing and Mentoring Doctoral Research. Considering that people like Oprah, Spike Lee, Camille Cosby, Taraji P. Henson, and the founders of Rainforest Films all went to black schools, I would have hoped the gap were smaller. And that’s not to discount Tom Joyner’s annual Family Reunion event and Fantastic Voyage cruise that have raised millions for black schools.

However, a handful of affluent standouts can’t be asked to carry the weight alone.  Although not many people have “extra money” to give away, HBCU alumni are among the most outspoken and passionate when it comes to reppin’ their schools. Planning that annual trip to homecoming or the Greek picnic is not enough. To truly show how much you love your university, do something to ensure it will remain standing.


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  • PascaleDE

    Its ironic that when I was reading this I immediately thought about FAMU (where Im currently seeking my masters degree), where numerous degree programs have been cut and approx. 200 if not more employees have been laid off. I looked you up and noticed that you’re also a fellow rattler!!!

    However, I couldn’t agree any more with the statements of your entry! Its true that many of us who graduate from HBCUs either do not give back on a consistent basis or possibly do not have the means to give back, which is crippling the HBCU institutions.

    My question though is despite the great education that some us receive from black education institutions, how do we restore the faith in and reputation of HBCUs which are rumored to have horrible administrative systems and are often said to either misappropriate or mishandle funds that are provided to them?

  • MarloweOverShakespeare

    Maybe a lot of programs get cut because the money goes to BUSINESS departments??

    This particular donation (outlined in the beginning quote) went to undergraduate business majors. At my institution in South Carolina business majors (I’m including finance, accounting, marketing in this category also) spend the most (over biology and marine science majors) for their tuition and textbooks, and have their own separate career service center.

    This might just be the tip of the iceberg. But then again my school isn’t an HBC/U. Idk.
    But thats one theory of mine.

  • Driadonna

    Hey ladies,

    i agree with you both – it definitely seems like business majors receive a lot of funding. is is that they produce more successful alums? i know peers who had only had internships in business and lived GOOD, so maybe that is the case.
    Also @PascaleDE, that is tough. black schools do have a rep for mismanaging funds, which makes ppl think y should i give them my money if they’re going to put it in their pockets? i think it’s the same argument as giving to ur church though…the pastor might buy a car or he might pay the light bill; you just have to know you gave with pure intentions

  • John Marsh

    Great read. Less talking and more check writing.