UNCF Applauds Introduction of HBCU Innovation Fund Act

Initiative would promote innovations at historically black colleges and universities

Media Contact:
Ashlei Stevens
UNCF Communications


(WASHINGTON) — UNCF applauds Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) for introducing the HBCU Innovation Fund Act (HR 4857), legislation that would promote innovations and creative solutions to post-secondary education challenges at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), including UNCF’s 37 member institutions. UNCF has worked closely with Congresswoman Adams on matters of importance to the HBCU community since her election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014.

UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax stated, “This legislation would build the capacity of our colleges to develop, test and implement new approaches that can help HBCUs surmount current challenges and meet the nation’s need for skilled college graduates. Similar to the UNCF Career Pathways Initiative, a new private competitive grant program that will help selected HBCUs intentionally and innovatively increase postgraduate employment outcomes, the HBCU Innovation Fund will support a broader strategic federal investment through both planning and implementation grants to drive innovative ideas and best practices at HBCUs. We urge swift adoption of this important initiative, whose possibilities are unlimited.”

The HBCU Innovation Fund Act would establish a new grant program under the Higher Education Act of 1965 to support initial planning grants and more substantial implementation grants for HBCUs that successfully compete for awards. Funds could be used to support the development and implementation of innovations designed to address national needs, such as:

  • Increasing the number of African American males who attain post-secondary degrees
  • Boosting the successful college completion of historically underrepresented populations
  • Increasing the number of students who are members of historically underrepresented populations in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics
  • Supporting the development of “innovation ecosystems” on HBCU campuses
  • Enhancing the quality and number of traditional and alternative route teacher preparation programs at HBCUs
  • Strengthening postgraduate employment outcomes through comprehensive career pathways for students

Under the legislation, HBCUs could apply for innovation grants with outside partners, including nonprofit organizations, school districts or other colleges, for collaborative projects. Proposed projects would describe the evidence base supporting the proposed innovation and performance measures that would track progress. Grantees would also provide for an independent evaluation of their projects. Through these actions, program accountability and a focus on doing what works would be maintained.

Cheryl L. Smith, UNCF senior vice president for government affairs, commented, “Congresswoman Adams understands that investing in HBCUs as best-practice incubators and innovators will yield dividends for their students, institutions and the nation. We greatly appreciate her leadership in introducing the HBCU Innovation Fund Act and look forward to working with her both as co-chair of the bipartisan congressional HBCU Caucus and as an important member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, as the committee continues its work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.”

Today, HBCUs represent just three percent of the nation’s two- and four-year nonprofit colleges and universities. However, they enroll 10 percent of African American undergraduates, produce 18 percent of all African American bachelor degree recipients and generate 25 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields earned by African Americans annually.


About UNCF
UNCF (the 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. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 21 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. 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 motto, ‟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.