Your Take: HBCU Funds on Chopping Block

If you care at all about black colleges, here's what you need to do now, says the UNCF's president.

Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Do we really want, in the tough economy through which we are struggling, to jeopardize so many promising careers, so many jobs and so much economic impact?

And for what? The savings gained from these cuts would be minimal. The $85 million in cuts that House appropriators want adds up to only 52 cents per man, woman and child living in the states where HBCUs are located.

But even that lopsided cost-benefit ratio doesn’t exhaust the list of what is wrong with cutting federal support for HBCUs. The increasing cost of college, and the debt that graduates are saddled with, have become a national concern. But HBCU tuition is typically lower than tuition at other institutions.

For example, the tuition at UNCF’s 38-member colleges and universities averages approximately 30 percent less than tuition at comparable non-HBCU institutions. So HBCUs provide not only an affordable education to more than 300,000 students every year; they also provide a model for other colleges and universities for how they, too, can provide a good education for tuition that their students can afford.

The financial bottom line? HBCUs produce college graduates who earn twice what their high school-only counterparts make, and thus pay more in taxes to federal and state governments, reducing budget deficits. HBCUs are engines of regional and local economies.

Their employees and the employees of the companies with which they do business pay taxes — reducing the budget deficit. HBCU graduates are part of the college-educated workforce that American employers need to increase profits, on which they pay — that’s right — taxes that reduce the budget deficit.

Education isn’t an expense. It’s an investment in a college-educated workforce that can hold its own in the global economy. It’s an investment in the next generation of American families and the communities they live in. And it’s an investment in helping our country live up to the ideal embodied in UNCF’s famous motto, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

To support HBCUs, the students who attend them and the communities that depend on them, go to

Michael Lomax is president and CEO of UNCF (the United Negro College Fund). He is a contributing editor for The Root.

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