While this is usually the season for homecoming celebrations, most of the in-person festivities have, unfortunately, been cancelled due to the pandemic. Yet, we can still take this time to celebrate, honor and rally around our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
As a Chief Information Officer at Wells Fargo and a member of the board and chair of the strategy committee for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), I recognize HBCUs as hallowed halls of academic achievement and trailblazing leadership that not only positively impact the Black community, but every community.
They’ve produced top-notch graduates in every field — all while operating on minimal budgets. Think of it this way, HBCUs represent only 3 percent of our nation’s institutions of higher education, but produce 17 percent of all African American graduates, including a high number of Black doctors, lawyers and engineers. As a former STEM teacher and staunch advocate of promoting STEM for African American students, I’m grateful for the support Wells Fargo is providing these institutions that enroll over 300,000 of our promising young thought leaders.
I think we can all agree college is expensive, and according to the UNCF, approximately 70% of HBCU students are from low-income families. On top of college expenses, COVID-19 disproportionately hit Black communities, threatening opportunities for students to obtain or maintain access to higher education.
To make a more equitable recovery, we all have to acknowledge that HBCUs and students need more support and resources in the wake of financial challenges heightened by the pandemic. Wells Fargo made it a priority to help improve their financial stability and set them up for greater financial success after college.
To provide more scholarships, emergency grants and funding to help students at HBCUs stay in school, Wells Fargo has donated more than $24 million to HBCUs and organizations over the last ten years. This donation includes a $1 million grant to Johnson C. Smith University earlier this year for student scholarships and success. Nearly $2 million was donated to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the UNCF this summer, giving many students the opportunity to apply the funding to STEM programs as well as provide training and resources for new and aspiring teachers.
There is more good news. After almost two centuries of inequality led by a lack of equitable funding, The IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act, the most significant legislation for HBCUs in over a century, is focused on funding the upgrade of HBCU buildings and campuses across the country. I’m proud that Wells Fargo is actively supporting this bill. Not only would it create infrastructure jobs that are an essential part of our economic recovery, it would also fulfill our commitment to improving economic mobility and investing in racial and social equity. Most importantly, HBCU scholars will have more funds and much-needed resources including new technology, research equipment and greater access to high-speed broadband.
Now more than ever, our future leaders of color will have a stronger foundation for future success. That is something we can all celebrate.