UNCF Institute for Capacity Building Expands Network Committed to Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

UNCF expands transformation partnerships to 42 with newly funded cohort of HBCUs, propelling higher enrollment and student success

Voorhees University president and CEO Dr. Ronnie Hopkins walks with Voorhees University students
Voorhees University president and CEO, Dr. Ronnie Hopkins, and students

[Contact Monique Lenoir, UNCF Communications, 202.810.0231, monique.lenoir@uncf.org]

ATLANTA (Nov. 17, 2022)—With a new round of investments, UNCF (United Negro College Fund) today announced its newest cohort of high-potential Black colleges and universities committed to institutional transformation.

The new cohort includes:
● Bethune-Cookman University (Daytona Beach, FL)
● Edward Waters University (Jacksonville, FL)
● Florida Memorial University (Miami Gardens, FL)
● Jarvis Christian University (Hawkins, TX)
● Lane College (Jackson, TN)
● Miles College (Fairfield, AL)
● Oakwood University (Huntsville, AL)
● Philander Smith College (Little Rock, AR)
● Shaw University (Raleigh, NC)
● Stillman College (Tuscaloosa, AL)
● Tougaloo College (Tougaloo, MS)
● Voorhees University (Denmark, SC)

UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building (ICB)—established in 2006 by Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF—has received support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Ascendium Education Group and, most recently, Blue Meridian Partners to implement transformation on the campuses of Black colleges and universities. Over the last three years, ICB has raised over $100 million to support the institutions in its network.

“UNCF’s mission and calling are to continually improve Black higher education while building on the unparalleled success HBCUs have had on Black progress and excellence,” said Dr. Lomax. “Forward-looking investors see a significant lever in our collective transformation work at a time when the nation is re-evaluating what constitutes a quality college education.”

Since 2016, 42 Black colleges and universities have joined ICB’s transformation network to advance institutional priorities, representing a mix of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly Black institutions (PBIs). Thanks to recent investments, ICB plans to expand its transformation network to more than 50 institutions in 2023 and aspires to partner with all 102 HBCUs and 64 PBIs in the United States. 

Ed Smith-Lewis, UNCF vice president of strategic partnerships and institutional programs, who leads ICB, said now is the right time to invest in HBCUs. 

While college enrollment declined nationwide, recent reports show HBCUs saw increases,” Mr. Smith-Lewis said. “We’ve been able to help HBCUs stay, not only relevant through the pandemic, but emerge even stronger through institutional innovation and collaboration.” 

The impact of transformation efforts continues to build momentum with partners reporting significant gains in student enrollment, success and workforce outcomes. A report from UNCF’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute on ICB’s first cohort of transformation partnerships will be released early next year.

Dr. Carmen Walters, president of Tougaloo College, said the collaboration with the Institute for Capacity Building has been catalytic. “The transformation partnership with ICB has changed the DNA of how presidents think about improvement,” said Walters. “It’s made us wiser and more strategic. Indeed, when we go together, we go further for our students and communities.”

Dr. Ronnie Hopkins, president and CEO of Voorhees University, also said that ICB’s support is critical to their plans. “We are living in a time of great transition in higher education generally, and Black higher education especially,” Hopkins said. “With ICB assistance and support from strategic philanthropists, we’re prepared to seize the possibilities we see for exponentially greater impact.”

ICB’s mission is to partner with Black colleges and universities to propel student success, community advancement and the fight for racial-justice equity. ICB focuses on six strategies—transformation support, executive leadership, financial sustainability, digital solutions, knowledge management and strategy development—that provide direct support to its institutional partners while promoting the adoption of best practices throughout higher education. ICB is also leading the development of HBCUv, a new online learning platform designed by and for HBCUs.

According to a recent survey, nearly three-fourths of college presidents say that, to thrive, they must rethink their business models to respond to increasing diversity in higher education. They seek partners, like UNCF, to guide that change.

Rev. Dr. Darryl Ann Lai-Fang, ICB director of transformation support, said the collective efforts continue to demonstrate the outsized impact of HBCUs. “Our schools have always done a lot more with a lot less. They graduate more Black students who go on to lift entire communities,” said Dr. Lai-Fang. “Now, our network of Black colleges and universities is demonstrating just how much it can teach the rest of higher education.” 

ICB recently launched a new website and social media platform to better serve as a champion of Black higher education and to further propel transformation partnerships. To learn more about ICB, visit uncficb.org and follow @uncficb on Twitter and Instagram, connect with UNCF ICB on LinkedIn or join ICB and its transformation network in July 2023 at UNITE, the most influential gathering of leaders committed to Black colleges and universities and the promise of Black higher education.