UNCF Awards Planning Grant Phase of $50 Million Initiative to 30 Selected Colleges and Universities

UNCF Career Pathways Initiative distributes $2.55 million in planning grants to selected HBCUs and PBIs, with potential to assist 66,000 students improve job placement outcomes

Media Contact:
Ashlei Stevens
UNCF Communications


(WASHINGTON) — Thirty colleges have been selected as planning grant awardees for UNCF’s new Career Pathways Initiative (CPI), a highly-competitive grant process open to four-year historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly black institutions (PBIs) to help students gain the knowledge, preparation, insight and skills needed for meaningful employment upon graduation.

Lilly Endowment, Inc., committed $50 million in October 2015 to launch the UNCF Career Pathways Initiative to improve the job placement outcomes of graduates from HBCUs and PBIs. Institutions will employ various strategies to achieve this goal, including aligning curricula with local and national workforce needs, developing intentional career pathway options for students across their collegiate experience, and strengthening their career service operations. The collective planning grant distribution announced today totals $2.55 million, which has the potential to assist more than 66,000 students across the 30 colleges and universities.

See the list of awardees here

“The UNCF Career Pathways Initiative is not only important to HBCUs and PBIs, it is important for the entire American higher education system and the American global economy,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF president and CEO. “CPI will serve as a model of best practices for all colleges and universities to follow, in order to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our students and the demands of the ever-changing marketplace for talent. We’re excited that HBCUs and PBIs will be at the forefront of this new and impactful venture. We applaud all of the institutions that put their best foot forward in the interest of their students’ future careers, and we commend the 30 institutions that were selected.”

The rigorous and competitive grant process opened in December 2015 to 87 eligible public and private institutions, of which 81 were HBCUs and six were PBIs. The eligible institutions must have met select criteria, including being an accredited four-year degree-granting institution that awards most of its degrees at the bachelor’s level. Of the 87 eligible institutions, 70 applied for the planning grant and 30 were selected as grantees.

Of the 30 recipients, 29 are HBCUs and one is a PBI. Twenty-three of the selected grantees are among the 37 private UNCF-supported institutions. The six-month planning grants are one-time awards that help the institutions research and envision programs that will strengthen their efforts to prepare students for sustaining and meaningful careers. Award amounts vary based on the institution’s student enrollment. The 30 selected institutions are:

  • Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA, $150,000
  • Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, NC, $150,000
  • Jackson State University, Jackson, MS, $150,000
  • Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD, $150,000
  • Norfolk State University, Norfolk, VA, $150,000
  • Tennessee State University, Nashville, TN, $150,000
  • Benedict College, Columbia, SC, $100,000
  • Claflin University, Orangeburg, SC, $100,000
  • Florida Memorial University, Miami, FL, $100,000
  • Lincoln University, Jefferson City, $100,000
  • Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA, $100,000
  • Oakwood University, Huntsville, AL, $100,000
  • Spelman College, Atlanta, GA, $100,000
  • Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA, $100,000
  • University of West Alabama, Livingston, AL, $100,000
  • Bennett College, Greensboro, NC, $50,000
  • Dillard University, New Orleans, LA, $50,000
  • Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, FL, $50,000
  • Fisk University, Nashville, TN, $50,000
  • Huston-Tillotson University, Austin, TX, $50,000
  • Jarvis Christian College, Hawkins, TX, $50,000
  • LeMoyne-Owen College, Memphis, TN, $50,000
  • Philander Smith University, Little Rock, AR, $50,000
  • Rust College, Holly Springs, MS, $50,000
  • Saint Augustine’s University, Raleigh, NC, $50,000
  • Talladega College, Talladega, AL, $50,000
  • Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, MS, $50,000
  • Voorhees College, Denmark, SC, $50,000
  • Wilberforce University, Wilberforce, OH, $50,000
  • Wiley University, Marshall, TX, $50,000

TOTAL: $2,550,000

Tier I institutions enroll more than 2,500 students; Tier II institutions enroll between 1,250 and 2,499 students; and Tier III institutions enroll a maximum of 1,249 students.

CPI is designed to support participating institutions to strengthen career guidance and leverage the liberal arts education of students by adding—where needed—certain skills, experiences, and knowledge required by employers. Programs will be expected to engage college faculty in the development of curricula that is aligned with workforce needs to better prepare students to compete in careers of their choice. The initiative also will help institutions build partnerships with local and national employers and improve student career services.

Planning grantees were selected based on how well their proposals reflected understanding of the challenges facing students as they prepare for post-graduate employment. In addition, successful proposals included evidence that the institutions had connected with experts who can help them find innovative solutions. The 30 institutions will be eligible to compete for a smaller number of implementation grants, of $1 million to $1.5 million, to be announced this fall.

Since the Great Recession ended in 2009, the problem of underemployment has become a crisis for young adults. By early 2015, the underemployment rate for recent college graduates had reached 44 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The statistics are even more alarming for African American graduates. As recently as 2013, the unemployment rate for African American college graduates between ages 22 and 27 was 12.4 percent, more than twice the rate of their white counterparts. And in 2014, the share of recent African American college graduates who were underemployed soared to 56 percent. Furthermore, a recent Georgetown University workforce study found that African Americans are underrepresented in the number of college majors associated with the fastest-growing, highest-paying occupations, with only seven percent entering the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

UNCF CPI was created to address these issues. This program falls under UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building (ICB), which works collaboratively with UNCF-member institutions to enhance their infrastructure, sustainability and success in a number of operational areas. Dr. Brian K. Bridges, UNCF vice president for research and member engagement, leads ICB efforts in addition to UNCF’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute (FDPRI).

“The mission of CPI truly validates our capacity-building work, as we aim to equip the next generation of 21st-century employees directly from HBCUs and PBIs,” Bridges said. “CPI will provide transformational support to institutions that do more with less, allowing them to further extend their ability to positively impact students’ lives for years after graduation.”

Data from FDPRI show that although HBCUs comprise only three percent of all four-year colleges and universities in the United States, these institutions award nearly 20 percent of the bachelor’s degrees earned by African American students nationally. Their impact with students in STEM fields is also significant, as 25 percent of bachelor degrees in STEM fields earned by African American students in the country are awarded by HBCUs.

CPI is led by director Edward Smith-Lewis, and its programmatic success will be measured through accountability and evaluation metrics that will be assessed periodically throughout the program and at its conclusion to determine impact, effectiveness and replicability. The inaugural annual convening of CPI grantees, to be held in June 2016 in Atlanta, will provide opportunities for participating institutions to share best practices, learn from each other and from leading experts in career preparation, and foster collaborations to maximize collective impact.

Lilly Endowment has been a supporter each year since UNCF’s inception in 1944 and its 2015 commitment of $50 million ties for the second-largest contribution that UNCF has received in its 72-year history.

About Lilly Endowment, Inc.
Lilly Endowment, Inc., is a private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family—J.K. Lilly, Sr., and sons J.K., Jr., and Eli—through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Although those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with its founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. Although it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana, it does support efforts of national significance particularly in the field of religion and on an invitational basis disaster relief and recovery efforts and programs that enhance higher education opportunities for African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans across the country. More information can be found at www.lillyendowment.org.

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.