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Study shows economic impact of HBCUs

Education
Travis Boland
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Presidents of the eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities around the state met at Benedict College Monday to develop a strategy of competitiveness and collaboration.

The meeting came on the heels of an economic impact report commissioned by the United Negro College Fund’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute highlighting the benefits of HBCUs to their communities and regions.

Ed Smith-Lewis, director of the Career Pathways Initiative at UNCF, presented findings of the survey, which included economic impact of HBCU spending and jobs created by the schools.

“This works begins a conversation about the relevancy of HBCUs,” Smith-Lewis said. “Knowing the economic value of these institutions lets us leverage that value moving forward.”

In South Carolina, eight HBCUs combine to contribute $463 million to the economy while creating nearly 5,000 jobs. Their graduates make $5.2 billion in lifetime earnings.

HBCUs are U.S. institutions of higher education established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the primary mission of serving the African-American community, though they are not limited to minority students. South Carolina’s HBCUs are: Allen University and Benedict College in Columbia; Claflin University and S.C. State University in Orangeburg; Voorhees College and Denmark Technical College in Denmark; Clinton Junior College in Rock Hill; and Morris College in Sumter.

Claflin tied for the ninth-best in the country in the 2018 U.S. News & World Report rankings of 74 HBCUs.

Roslyn Artis, Benedict College president, said the study helps HBCUs provide documented evidence of their value.

“It’s important that I can talk in hard dollars that come into Columbia and Richland County by virtue of our existence,” Artis said. “Benedict has a $130 million economic impact, and that should matter to every business owner in Columbia. You should know that I have some dollars behind me, and this study has given us the numbers and backing we need to make that case most effectively.”

Along with the $130 million in economic impact, Benedict also creates 1,218 jobs. Nearby Allen University has a $22 million economic impact and creates 229 jobs.

“We’ve always known that HBCUs mattered,” said Allen president Ernest McNealey. “Roughly 70% of the human brain is used in processing what we see, and UNCF has produced a document for people to see the impact. It provides the first step for those who have not traditionally valued us, and starts the process of seeing these institutions differently.”

Johnathan Holifield, executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, called the institutions prime vehicles to contribute an increasing focus on competitiveness.

“Over the last 50 years, we have talked about empowerment and opportunity, but there is another track that has led to some of our best opportunities,” he said. “That’s what competitiveness represents.”

Artis said the meeting represented the culmination of a day of talks with industry and state leaders, along with elected officials, centered on collaboration and enhancing competitiveness.

W. Franklin Evans, president of Voorhees College, said the conversation shows there is strength in unity.

“We are not competing against each other, but we’re trying to equip students to compete for available jobs — not just in the state but all over the world,” Evans said. “Coming together today gives us a chance to show we can work together and have the capacity to make a difference.”

Reach Travis Boland at colanews@scbiznews.com.

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