Earlier this week George Lucas and his wife Mellody Hobson pledged $10 million to the USC School of Cinematic Arts to provide financial support for Black and Hispanic students. As Lucas’ alma mater it’s obvious why he’s supporting the school, and it’s more than honorary that he recognizes the challenges facing students of color at predominately white institutions (PWI), not to mention the opportunity this presents for ushering in more diversity in Hollywood. But with many of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) hanging on by a financial thread it’s beyond apparent these institutions are in desperate need of funding too.
Just this week the latest Gallup-USA Funds Minority College Graduates Report found HBCU graduates felt more prepared for life after graduation than Black students who attended other institutions of higher learning and “are most likely to have strong relationships, enjoy what they do each day for work, and they are more goal-oriented,” according to The Huffington Post which also noted HBCU grads or more likely to thrive financially. These findings build a strong case for the need of such institutions, which has been heavily debated over the years. But with no shortage of reports on the financial hardships affecting HBCUs, why hasn’t anyone stepped up to the endowment plate?
In March, Business Insider said as many as 15 HBCUs are “having a really difficult time” keeping their doors open. That number is even higher than the figure Politic365 reported last year when they noted nine HBCUs were in financial trouble because too many students were defaulting on loans. Not even the big three — Spelman, Howard, and Morehouse — which are in a better position than other HBCUs are without struggles. Just two years ago a Howard trustee said the school wouldn’t last another three years if some crucial decisions weren’t made and changes to PLUS loans in 2012 nearly crippled Morehouse and other black schools. Even without these issues, no HBCU has any financial backing that even comes close to matching that of a PWI for reasons that go far beyond donations (like 10 states withholding more than $50 million designated for these schools). But all things considered, someone — make that many ones — should be stepping up to fill the gaps.
I don’t expect The George Lucas Family Foundation and similar philanthropic organizations to be well versed in all the inequities HBCUs and their students face, though that would be nice. What would be even better than a great white knight though would be if the famous products of these institutions put their money together to give other kids the opportunity they had to make it big. While we know Blacks in Hollywood aren’t exactly coasting on easy street, if a regular alum working a 9-5 can still take time to shoot a few bucks back to their school here and there, I’m sure there are more than a handful of Black stars who could find a spare million or two to demonstrate how Black lives matter in the realm of education as well.
Image Credits: AP/I Love My HBCU