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During an Economic Crisis, Don’t Make Cuts in Institutional Advancement

By Marybeth Gasman, Ph.D.

A few days ago, I was on the phone with a good friend, Nelson Bowman, who works as the Director of Development at Prairie View A & M University.  We started talking about the economic downturn and its impact on HBCUs.  Nelson is amazingly resourceful, and as such, was trying to get some “free” consulting out of me.  He asked, “What are your thoughts on institutions, specifically HBCUs, that cut the budgets of institutional advancement during these difficult economic times?”  This is a great question.

Although I would advise all HBCUs to cut as much fat out of their budgets as possible during this time, Institutional Advancement is the life blood of an institution and should not be cut in any substantial way.  Those in this area are raising money for the rest of the institution — for scholarships, facilities, operating costs, faculty research, and other essential areas.  Some HBCU administrators are cutting travel, event, and staff budgets in Institutional Advancement right now.  In many ways, as my colleague Nelson Bowman reminded me, cutting in this area first is treating Institutional Advancement like an accessory rather than an essential part of the institution.  An accessory is something that you can take on and off depending on your mood or the situation you are in.  Slashing Institutional Advancement budgets during difficult times results in a need to rebuild when times are better. Institutional Advancement should be treated as central to the mission of an HBCU and its activities should, in fact, be bolstered during times of crisis.  Times like these are the best times to be bold and increase efforts to garner monetary support for the institution. 

Even if regular donors cannot give as much during tough times, HBCUs need to stay on the radar screen of these donors.  Donors need to know that the institution is in need and that their support is still greatly appreciated and desired.  They also need to be made aware of the ways that the institution is coping with the economic crisis and cutting spending where necessary.  During tough economic times, donors want to know that their contributions are being used wisely. 

Cutting back on personal visits, public relations materials, and stewardship events will end up hurting HBCUs in the long term. Investing in Institutional Advancement is an investment in the future of the institution.  However, HBCUs must convince their internal constituents (faculty, staff, and students) that the work of the Institutional Advancement staff is essential to the strength of the institution as a whole.

From Today’s Edition

PBIs Make Gains in Washington
by Charles Dervarics
Apr 28, 2008, 20:31

After years of lobbying for more federal aid and visibility, predominantly Black colleges and universities   many of them located in northern cities are gaining a greater foothold in Washington.


These colleges, which enroll large numbers of Black students but are not historically Black institutions, will divide $15 million over two years through a new grant competition expected to be formally open for applications soon. Approved under the College Cost Reduction Act, the competitive grants can provide predominantly Black institutions, or PBIs, with a minimum grant of at least $250,000.


“We’ve got a foot in the door. That’s significant,” says Dr. Edison Jackson, president of Medgar Evers College in New York, who long has argued for aid to PBIs. With a Black enrollment of about 94 percent, Jackson’s college would qualify for the new funds.


Precise eligibility rules for the competition are still pending.


However, according to the Department of Education, eligible applicants would include those colleges and universities with an undergraduate enrollment that is “at least 40 percent Black American students.” As a comparison, institutions with a 25 percent Hispanic student population are designated Hispanic-serving institutions.


Under the program, colleges and universities are to use funds for one of the following:


   Science, technology, engineering or

   mathematics (STEM) activities;

   Health education;

   Internationalization or globalization;

   Teacher preparation; or

   Improving educational outcomes of

    Black males.


On its Web site, the education department says it expects to make about 25 grants of $600,000 each, the maximum amount of funding available under the program. Funding must supplement, not replace, other federal or state dollars.


The grants are expected to last for two years, though Jackson says PBIs are seeking congressional support to extend the program beyond two years.


“We’re still waiting to hear from the department” on the grant competition, says Jill Hunter-Thompson, legislative director for Rep.


Danny Davis, D-Ill., who has sponsored House legislation to assist PBIs.


A senior Department of Education official held a briefing on the grant program at the recent National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) conference in Washington in March. Application deadline dates should be available soon.


“It’s a tight schedule because the money is available this fiscal year,” says Jackson. The current fiscal year ends Sept. 30, so the government is likely to make grant awards before that date.


Jackson, a board member of NAFEO, says most HBCUs support these initiatives for PBIs.


  “Now that [aid to PBIs] is in a separate category, it’s not seen as competing with the HBCU program,” he tells Diverse. “Most HBCUs are comfortable” with the new PBI funding, Jackson adds.


Aside from Medgar Evers, other institutions likely to qualify for the new funds include Chicago State University and Sojourner Douglas College in Baltimore. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who has introduced his own Senate legislation to increase PBI funding, has said that about 75 colleges in 17 states could likely apply for funds as eligible PBIs.


In Illinois alone, other likely eligible institutions include Robert Morris College, several campuses of the City Colleges of Chicago, South Suburban College and East-West University.


In his own legislation, Obama has used eligibility requirements for colleges such as 40 percent Black undergraduate enrollment, a minimum of at least 1,000 undergraduate students, an undergraduate population with at least 50 percent low-income or first-generation college students, and a student population in which at least half of all undergraduates are in a program leading to an associate or bachelor’s degree.


PBIs could also gain through reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which is now the focus of House/Senate negotiators after both chambers approved different bills. Both chambers have provisions to aid PBIs.


The recently approved House bill defines PBIs in ways largely similar to the Obama approach, defining eligibility based on minimum percentages of Black, low-income and first-generation college students.


But the House bill would authorize $75 million for the program in 2009.


Among other provisions, it would allow PBIs to use federal funds to serve low- and middle-income Black students, promote college preparation and persistence for students in high school and college and improve teacher education.

Colleges could use up to 20 percent of grants to create or increase their endowments.


Under the House bill, PBIs would receive funds through an allotment based partly on enrollment of Pell Grant-eligible students and graduation rates for the college.


While some issues remain unresolved, Jackson says the tide is moving in the right direction. “We’re very pleased that we are in the ballpark,” he says.