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Did you know that since 2021, the Federal Government has infused an historic $5.8 billion into the economy for cumulative investment and support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)?

After decades of federal, state, and local underfunding, there are now significant financial opportunities for the more than 100 HBCUs across our nation. Since 1837, HBCUs have provided life-changing opportunities for young people while simultaneously anchoring neighborhoods and communities of minority populations. These institutions are at the forefront of research and innovation and harness the talents and abilities of scholars, entrepreneurs, and leaders both nationally and globally. Kamala Harris is the first HBCU graduate (Howard University) to serve as U.S. Vice President.

HBCUs create pathways of opportunity for students and have graduated leaders in their fields – entrepreneurs, doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers, judges, educators, etc. They are resourceful engines for economic growth and contributors to their surrounding communities. According to a CultureBanx study and Forbes article, for every dollar spent by HBCUs and their students, $1.44 is generated for local and regional economies. HBCUs create an annual economic impact of $15 billion, equal to a ranking in the top 200 corporations on the Fortune 500 list.

Federal Funding to HBCUs Reaches Historic Levels

In 2019, former President Donald Trump signed the FUTURE Act (Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education Act) that restored $250 million a year to minority-serving institutions, including $85 million for HBCUs, $100 million for Hispanic-serving institutions, $30 million for tribal schools, and $40 million for additional MSIs.

In 2021, President Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) dedicated $36.9 billion to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), which included $2.7 billion specifically for HBCUs. These emergency funds support higher education institutions in remote learning costs, COVID-19 monitoring and mitigation, student expenses (discharging debt and making college more affordable), campus operations, staffing, teaching, and educational programs.

In addition, the Department of Education (DOE) discharged $1.6 billion of debt from loans provided to HBCUs for capital improvements, and awarded more than $500 million in grant funding for HBCU academic capacity-building and fiscal stability. As part of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act in 2021, there are grant opportunities for universities and research centers to conduct more research and pilot projects associated with expanding U.S. broadband capabilities.

The DOE recently released a geographic breakdown of the $2.7 billion in federal funds provided over the last year to HBCUs through HEERF:

  • Alabama - $334 million for 13 HBCUs
  • Arkansas - $61 million for 4 HBCUs
  • California - $13 million for 1 HBCU
  • Delaware - $36 million for 1 HBCU
  • District of Columbia - $88 million for 2 HBCUs
  • Florida - $156 million for 4 HBCUs
  • Georgia - $260 million for 8 HBCUs
  • Kentucky - $21 million for 2 HBCUs
  • Louisiana - $211 million for 6 HBCUs
  • Maryland - $153 million for 4 HBCUs
  • Mississippi - $237 million for 7 HBCUs
  • Missouri - $38 million for 2 HBCUs
  • North Carolina - $307 million for 10 HBCUs
  • Ohio - $34 million for 2 HBCUs
  • Oklahoma - $23 million for 1 HBCU
  • Pennsylvania - $25 million for 2 HBCUs
  • South Carolina - $112 million for 8 HBCUs
  • Tennessee - $133 million for 6 HBCUs
  • Texas - $304 million for 9 HBCUs
  • U.S. Virgin Islands - $12 million for 1 HBCU
  • Virginia - $141 million for 5 HBCUs
  • West Virginia - $28 million for 2 HBCUs

HBCUs are either public institutions mainly funded by federal grants, state government allocations, and private donations, or they are private universities that heavily depend on philanthropic donations and endowments. Public-private partnerships are also an important tool to launch, develop, and finance commercial real estate projects and corporate-university ventures either on campus or around universities.

For example, creating economic districts around HBCUs has been a nationwide effort in cities across the United States. Adams and Reese is working with New Orleans economic development officials and business, nonprofit, healthcare, and higher education leaders - including HBCU client Xavier University of Louisiana - to create the BioDistrict New Orleans. This economic development district works to grow the biosciences sector and serve as a job-creating medical center of excellence, with healthcare industry anchors, world-class research, biotech startups, and small businesses. New Orleans and Xavier University of Louisiana hope the BioDistrict will serve as a model for equity and economic inclusion.

Adams and Reese Hosts HBCU Federal Grant Funding Overview Webinar

So how do HBCUs access federal funds, grants, contracts, and other resources to continue to foster an environment of academic excellence, growth, and workforce development?

The Adams and Reese HBCU/MSI team leverages our firm’s government relations practice to assist clients with governmental programs and funding, including COVID relief funds, to help bolster HBCUs, their operations, infrastructure, capital needs, and programming.

It’s critical for an HBCU to know and understand all the available financial resources and opportunities, and then for their staff and administration to also understand the processes to ensure eligibility and access to those funds. 

On Thursday, March 30, Adams and Reese hosted a webinar, “HBCU Federal Grant Funding Overview,” via ON24 Webcast.

  • How and when do HBCUs apply for federal funds?
  • What are the eligibility requirements?
  • Which funds are available?
  • What happens once a federal grant or contract is awarded?
  • How can federal funds and grants become a sustainable part of your annual budget?

Adams and Reese HBCU Practice Team Leader and Special Counsel Roy Hadley served as the webinar moderator and was joined by panelists Michael Berson, Partner, Adams and Reese; Kaneisha Akinpelumi, Associate VP, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, Xavier University of Louisiana; and Annette Owens-Scarboro (NIH/OD), Small Business Program Manager and HBCU Coordinator, National Institutes of Health.

In 2022, Adams and Reese launched an HBCU/MSI Practice. This practice area expanded our law firm’s Education Practice and more than 40-year history of advising more than 100 schools, colleges, and universities. We address a diverse range of legal issues, including federal funding, grant acquisition and administration, public-private partnerships (PPPs), student housing, campus construction projects, full range Title IX services, cybersecurity and data privacy, IP acquisition and licensing, discrimination and retaliation-related issues, human resources, including investigative services, EEO and DEI training, among other business law matters unique to the education sector.

About Roy Hadley: Roy Hadley serves as Special Counsel in the Adams and Reese Atlanta, GA office and as team leader of the firm’s HBCU Practice, providing legal and other support specifically tailored to HBCUs and to other institutions that are focused on educating minority populations. Practicing law for more than 30 years, Roy has been a trusted advisor to high growth businesses, governments, and family/closely held businesses, in complex corporate transactions, particularly those involving technology, cybersecurity, life sciences, economic development, telecommunications, outsourcing and intellectual property. Roy is a frequent speaker, lecturer and author on topics related to his practice areas.

About Suntrease Williams-Maynard: Suntrease Williams-Maynard serves as Special Counsel in the Adams and Reese Mobile, AL office, practicing in litigation, government relations, labor and employment, education (including HBCUs), and utilities/telecommunications. She is a frequent speaker on EEO and DEI matters and advises organizations on EEOC and Title IX issues. Prior to joining Adams and Reese, Suntrease served as a trial attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Mobile. She is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama and the Southern District of Texas. Suntrease is an Assistant Staff Judge Advocate in the United States Air Force Reserve, carrying the rank of Major. She is a graduate of Shaw University and North Carolina Central University School of Law.