HBCU Transformation Project Receives $124 Million Investment to Increase Enrollment, Improve Efficiency, and Expand Pathways to Economic Mobility

Media Contact

Roy Betts UNCF Communications 240.703.3384 roy.betts@uncf.org

Strong First-Year Results and Positive Trends in Student Enrollment and Retention Pave Way to Major Expansion of The HBCU Transformation Project

The HBCU Transformation Project received a $124 million investment from Blue Meridian Partners, increasing its total investment to $184 million. The new investment will expand the Transformation Project’s work to drive systemic improvements among historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) nationwide.

The HBCU Transformation Project is a collaboration between UNCF (United Negro College Fund), Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), and Partnership for Education Advancement (Ed Advancement). Forty HBCUs are currently working intensively with the Project and additional campuses are expected to join this year.  A complete list of participating HBCUs is available here. The HBCU Transformation Project launched in 2022.

Most of the additional $124 million will be invested in high-return initiatives at individual HBCUs, such as building technology infrastructure, developing and testing transformative curricular and administrative strategies, and piloting platforms to work together on staff development, shared procurement, and related approaches. UNCF, TMCF, and Ed Advancement will also receive support to provide leadership for The HBCU Transformation Project, expand their capacity to coordinate multi-campus networks, and lead a major capital campaign to help close longstanding funding gaps between HBCUs and other higher education institutions.

“As the new academic year begins, we welcome returning students and extend a special greeting to members of the class of 2027. While these extraordinary students will bring positive changes to their families, communities and the nation, HBCU leaders are also focused on the classes of 2037 and 2047, and we recognize that our institutions must evolve to give future generations the educational experiences they need. The Transformation Project will ensure that HBCUs continue to be drivers of economic mobility and champions for racial equity long into the future,” said UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax.

The Transformation Project has several core goals:

  • Increasing enrollment and retention at HBCUs, improving graduation rates and better preparing students for successful careers.
  • Further improving institutional performance and capacity and accelerating the pace of innovation at HBCUs.
  • Creating opportunities for HBCUs to work together as a network, leveraging collective knowledge and power, and demonstrating the value of a networked approach.
  • Reversing historic funding inequities, so HBCUs have the resources they need for long-term growth and success.

HBCUs have long outperformed their peer institutions at providing higher education opportunities for Black and low-income students. Although they represent only three percent of higher education institutions, HBCUs produce nearly 20% of Black college graduates, while enrolling nearly double the percentage of low-income Pell-eligible students (62% vs. 39%) and first-generation students (60% vs. 33%), compared to colleges nationally.

“The HBCU Transformation Project will deliver permanent, sustainable, and systemic improvement: more students, more graduates, bigger endowments, and new opportunities to advance economic mobility. HBCUs will be at the leading edge of transformation and infrastructure enhancements that will impact student outcomes well into the future,” said James Runcie, CEO and Co-Founder of the Partnership for Education Advancement.

Blue Meridian Partners made the additional investment after HBCU Transformation Project leaders and individual campuses reported positive results from the project’s initial phase. HBCU enrollment has increased sharply since the COVID pandemic’s peak during the 2020-2021 academic year, and many individual HBCUs working with the Transformation Project have reported historic growth.

For example, applications at South Carolina State University have increased 174% since 2020 and enrollment is up 54%, due largely to recent investments in technology supported by the Transformation Project, including new AI platforms and CRM software solutions that help students navigate the application and financial aid process. Claflin University reported its highest enrollment in school history last year and Morehouse College recorded significant improvements in student persistence after creating an innovative approach to retention that identifies students at risk for leaving college and provides them with intensive coaching, tutoring and other support.

“For more than a century, HBCUs have been vital engines for economic and social mobility in the United States. That essential fact, coupled with the HBCU Transformation Project’s record of achievement, justifies additional support. With this latest investment, we hope to accelerate the pace of change and strengthen these vital institutions and the students they serve at scale,” said Jim Shelton, Blue Meridian Partners’ President and Chief Investment and Impact Officer. Blue Meridian Partners provides financial support and strategic advice to the organizations leading the HBCU Transformation Project.

HBCUs have produced more than 1 million associate, bachelor, master and doctoral degrees since 1984. HBCUs produce 40% of Black engineers, 40% of Black Congress members, 50% of Black public-school teachers, 50% of Black lawyers, 50% of Black doctors, and 80% of Black judges.

HBCU leaders warn this historic overachievement is currently at risk, in part because of the disproportionate impact of the COVID pandemic on Black and Brown communities, including steep declines in academic achievement for low-income students. The Supreme Court’s recent decision prohibiting race-conscious admissions programs at institutions of higher education is further expected to increase application volume and enrollment at HBCUs.

“HBCUs have always been an express train to the Black middle class, and to keep that going, we need to accelerate our collaborative work and identify solutions that help maximize our students’ path to success. We’re thrilled that major donors and philanthropies are showing a new interest in HBCUs, and we welcome their support. It’s long past time for HBCUs to get the resources they deserve,” said Dr. Harry L. Williams, President & CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

During the next three years, the HBCU Transformation Project aims to reduce the growing wealth gaps between HBCUs and other higher education institutions, while increasing the number of students enrolled at HBCUs by 90,000 (a 40% increase over 2020) and increasing the number of HBCU graduates by 22,000 (a 54% increase). These changes are projected to yield a total annual increase of $1.1 billion in Black wealth.

# # #

About the Thurgood Marshall College Fund
Established in 1987, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) is the nation’s largest organization exclusively representing the Black College Community. TMCF member schools include publicly supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs). Publicly supported HBCUs enroll over 80% of all students attending HBCUs. Through scholarships, capacity building and research initiatives, innovative programs, and strategic partnerships, TMCF is a vital resource in the K-12 and higher education spaces. The organization is also a source for top employers seeking top talent for competitive internships and good jobs.

About UNCF
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, supports and strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. While totaling only 3% of all colleges and universities, UNCF institutions and other historically Black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 15% of bachelor’s degrees, 5% of master’s degrees, 10% of doctoral degrees and 19% of all STEM degrees earned by Black students in higher education. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, ‟A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Learn more at UNCF.org or for continuous updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF.

About the Partnership for Education Advancement
The Partnership for Education Advancement, founded in 2018, is an organization dedicated to strengthening HBCUs and other mission focused colleges and universities. Our team is a diverse group of highly experienced professionals with wide-ranging expertise in technology, project management, operations, risk management, vendor management, and many functional areas within higher education, including enrollment, student success, data infrastructure, and campus operations. Ed Advancement utilizes its expertise to provide scalable infrastructure, operations, and technology-focused solutions to HBCUs to help them better serve their students. These student success focused solutions increase enrollment, retention, graduation rates, and post-graduation outcomes which can meaningfully address the racial wealth gap and overall socioeconomic justice on a national level.

About Blue Meridian Partners
Blue Meridian Partners is a pioneering philanthropic model for finding and funding scalable solutions to problems that limit economic and social mobility for America’s young people and families in poverty. We know solutions exist, but even the most promising strategies cannot reach far enough, fast enough without significant, long-term investment. In order to meet the scale of the problem, we provide transformative capital paired with capacity-building support and strategic advice, empowering visionary leaders to dream bigger and vastly expand their impact, influence, and reach. With an investor mindset, we support strategies that address challenges from cradle to career, working both nationwide and within specific communities. We recognize that economic mobility is inextricably tied to racial equity. Therefore, we make investments that tackle systemic inequities that both hinder opportunity for Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people and other communities of color and limit the flow of capital to social sector leaders of color. Our partnership of leading philanthropists pool resources to invest more efficiently and effectively than any single funder could alone. Ultimately, Blue Meridian’s goal is to transform the philanthropic marketplace in order to improve the life trajectories of millions of young people and families across America.