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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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