Four Reasons Why 2020 Was The Year Of The HBCU

Much of higher education’s 2020 news ranged from the discouraging to the alarming - a raging pandemic, sinking enrollments, decimated budgets, unhappy students, exhausted faculty and administrators, and a growing public disillusionment about the value of college.

Against this backdrop, however, one higher education sector attracted renewed interest amid signs of a welcomed renaissance. Indeed, 2020 was a banner year for America’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), the approximately 100 public and private institutions established primarily to serve the African American community. 

According to the Higher Education Act of 1965, an HBCU is: “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.” 

HBCUs pave a broad avenue of access to postsecondary education, and not only for Black students. They also serve a significant proportion of first-generation students and those from low-income families. And they’ve become an increasingly popular destination for international students.

According to the American Council on Education, while HBCUs represent just 3% of institutions eligible for federal student financial aid, they award 17% of all bachelor’s degrees earned by Black students. With an overall enrollment of about 300,000, HBCUs also play a major role in graduating Black students with bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields. 

HBCUs have long battled strong headwinds. They are chronically underfunded compared to other public institutions. Their endowments are smaller than most private schools. And like many colleges, they are grappling with declining enrollments. Because most HBCUs are small, they typically have little cushion to absorb decreased revenue.

But 2020 saw HBCUs receive increasing and much-deserved support. Policy makers paid more attention to their missions, social issues raised awareness about their importance, noteworthy alums captured national headlines, and several historical firsts were achieved.

Here are four reasons why 2020 will be remembered as a noteworthy year for HBCUs.

The Presidential Election

One indication of HBCUs’ renaissance was the attention they garnered from presidential candidates, particularly among the Democrat contenders. All of the most prominent Democrats seeking their party’s nomination - Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren - proposed substantial funding boosts for HBCUs as part of their educational platforms.

Even Donald Trump, whose advocacy for HBCUs appeared largely symbolic, via Executive Orders and proclamations, offered some support. Late in 2019 he signed the Futures Act, a rare triumph of congressional bipartisanship that permanently provided more than $250 million annually to the nation’s HBCUs along with other institutions serving large numbers of minority students.

Joe Biden has pledged he will invest significantly in HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions and has publicized plans for spending more than $70 billion on various initiatives at these schools.

The Racial Justice Movement

The killing of George Floyd and several other Black citizens at the hands of the police led to demonstrations by millions of Americans throughout the summer. In fact, the various marches and demonstrations may have been the largest protest movement in the country’s history.

Much of that activity was inspired by Black Lives Matter (BLM), which recently has seen a resurgence in public support. College athletes picked up the BLM mantle and began speaking out against racial injustice and police brutality.

Following the athletes’ lead, more college students got off the sidelines and joined the action. They aimed their anger at convenient campus targets. Whether it was Princeton removing Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school, Washington and Lee faculty voting to drop Lee from the university’s name, or tearing down Confederate symbols at the University of Mississippi, colleges and universities found a sudden willingness to distance themselves from relics of a racist past.

The dramatic increase in racial awareness is anticipated to usher in a “Floyd Effect,” an increase in applications to HBCUs by Black students who want the safety and security they feel is missing at many predominantly white universities. It’s something akin to the “Missouri Effect,” the uptick in applicants to HBCUs that followed racial tensions at the University of Missouri several years ago.

Greater awareness of racial injustices and the importance of increasing educational opportunities for Black Americans also led to new interest by wealthy Americans in HBCUs and other colleges serving large numbers of first-generation, minority, and low-income students.

A Record-Shattering Year of Private Gifts

Dozens of HBCUs received multi-million-dollar donations in 2020, taking some of the spotlight away from the elite colleges that typically garner most of higher education’s mega-gifts.

Leading the list were MacKenzie Scott’s two tranches of donations to hundreds of organizations, totaling about six billion dollars. HBCUs received over $500 million from Ms. Scott, largely unrestricted in nature, with most of the individual gifts in the $15 to $50 million range.

But Ms. Scott’s gifts were not the end.

  • Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix, and his wife, Patty Quillin, announced in June they were donating a total of $120 million - $40 million each to the United Negro College Fund, Spelman College and Morehouse College.
  • In September, IBM announced it was establishing a quantum education and research initiative for HBCUs. The IBM-HBCU Quantum Center is a multi-year investment focused on physics, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and other STEM fields at 13 HBCUs. IBM also invested $100 million in technology, assets, resources and skills development for several other HBCUs through the IBM Skills Academy Academic Initiative.
  • Also in September, Michael R. Bloomberg announced his foundation would donate $100 million to four historically Black medical schools, in an attempt to improve the health and wealth of Black communities. The gift will benefit about 800 medical students at the Charles R. Drew University of Science and Medicine; Howard University College of Medicine; Meharry Medical College; and Morehouse School of Medicine.
  • Tik Tok, the social media platform, announced in December it was donating $10 million to 10 academic institutions serving underrepresented students with programs focused on public health and professions in the medical and healthcare fields. The majority of the institutions were HBCUs. Each school will receive $1 million in scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing medical careers or other health related fields. 

A Year 0f Historical Firsts

Several HBCUs achieved new milestones this year. Start with the obvious fact that a number of the year’s major political figures were HBCU alums.

  • Kamala Harris became the first woman of color and the first HBCU alum (Howard University) to be elected Vice President of the United States.
  • Stacy Abrams, credited with helping turn Georgia blue in this year’s presidential election, attended Spelman College.
  • Michael Regan, Joe Biden’s pick to lead the EPA, graduated from North Carolina A and T.
  • Raphael Warnock, the Democrat candidate for one of the closely watched senate races in Georgia, is a graduate of Morehouse College.
  • President-Elect Joe Biden picked Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University, to be CEO of his Presidential Inaugural Committee. Allen had previously served in the 1990s as a special assistant and speechwriter for then U.S. Senator Biden.

HBCUs took major strides in STEM education in 2020.

  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) established the HBCU STEM Undergraduate Success Research Center (STEM-US), aimed at learning how HBCUs can foster more STEM graduates and STEM doctorates. It was supported by a $9 million grant to Morehouse College, Spelman College and Virginia State University.
  • Six HBCUs - Bowie State University, Alabama A&M University, Florida A&M University, Johnson C. Smith University, Morehouse College and Norfolk State University - received a grant from the NSF South Big Data Hub to establish a consortium of data science faculty, researchers and industry partners.
  • Seventeen HBCUs received $3.9 million from the Department of Education's Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) to increase the number of minority graduates in STEM fields.

Other firsts:

  • In July, Delaware State University announced its intent to acquire Wesley College, a small, private college in Dover, Delaware. When finalized, it will mark the first time in history that an HBCU has acquired another college.
  • Lincoln University (Missouri) became the first HBCU to host a police training academy.


HBCUs were by no means immune to the travails of 2020. The pandemic increased their financial struggles, and it hit communities of color particularly hard. However, collectively HBCUs earned a much higher profile on the higher education landscape. Their presidents demonstrated steady leadership during the pandemic, the accompanying economic troubles, and multiple episodes of racial turmoil. Their alumni, missions and academic programs attracted record philanthropy. And now they stand poised to become an even greater national asset with a new administration in Washington, D.C. that’s committed to their purpose and possibilities.



Lawmakers who voted against Biden are denounced back home

Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory, even after a mob broke into the Capitol, are being denounced by critics in their home districts who demand that they resign or be ousted.

Protesters, newspaper editorial boards and local-level Democrats have urged the lawmakers to step down or for their colleagues to kick them out. The House and Senate can remove members with a two-thirds vote or censure or reprimand with a majority.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn “needs to be held accountable for his seditious behavior and for the consequences resulting from said behavior,” a group of Democratic officials wrote in a letter asking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to expel the North Carolina freshman who took his oath of office on Jan. 3.

Cawthorn said he had a constitutional duty to vote against Biden. He condemned the violence in Wednesday's attack, but compared it to last summer's protests over police brutality. Those demonstrations never breached a government building during official business.

A Capitol police officer died and an officer shot and killed a woman in the mob. Three other people died from medical emergencies in the chaos, which forced lawmakers and staff members to go into hiding as the rioters roamed the halls of one of America’s most hallowed buildings.

Pelosi and other Democratic leaders in Congress are pushing to have President Donald Trump impeached for encouraging the insurrection and refusing to act to stop the violence. But they have been quiet about whether lawmakers who backed the untrue claims of voter fraud that led to the melee should be punished.

Most previous expulsions have been for members who backed the Confederacy during the Civil War or for taking bribes.

In St. Louis on Saturday, several hundred people protested against Sen. Josh Hawley, the first-term Missouri Republican who led efforts in the Senate to overturn Biden's election. The protestors painted “RESIGN HAWLEY” in large yellow letters in the middle of the street.

A caravan of about 40 cars circled Sen. Ron Johnson’s office in Madison, Wisconsin, urging him to resign. Johnson initially supported Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, but after the riot, he voted in favor of Biden's win. Johnson condemned the violence but did not back off voter fraud allegations.

The editorial boards of two of Wisconsin's biggest newspapers called for Johnson to resign, joining with editorials published across the country that targeted GOP politicians.

The Houston Chronicle, long a critic of Sen. Ted Cruz, said in an editorial that the Republican knew exactly what he was doing and what might happen when he took to the Senate floor to dispute the election results.

“Those terrorists wouldn’t have been at the Capitol if you hadn’t staged this absurd challenge to the 2020 results in the first place,” the newspaper wrote.

Cruz has called the attack a despicable act of terrorism, but he continues to push for a commission to investigate the presidential election.

In Alabama, the Decatur Daily called for local Rep. Mo Brooks to resign. The York Dispatch in Pennsylvania said congressman Scott Perry is “a disgrace to Pennsylvania and our democracy,” and if he still believes Biden's election is fraudulent, he should resign because that means his election was bogus too. Perry condemned the Capitol violence.

The Danville Register & Bee in Virginia said its representative, Bob Good, needs to go because his words struck the matches that led to the destructive mobs. Good said his vote was to protect his constituents.

The invading Trump loyalists "confronted security personnel, and there were injuries and even deaths,” the paper's editorial board wrote. “And you are just as guilty as they were.”



Graham rails against security failure at Capitol: Rioters 'could have killed us all'

Graham rails against security failure at Capitol: Rioters 'could have killed us all'

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) offered withering criticism on Thursday of top Capitol police and Senate sergeant at arms officials, warning that the ability for rioters to breach the Capitol was "mind-boggling."

Graham, speaking to reporters in the Capitol, said he was "embarrassed" and "disgusted" that a pro-Trump mob was able to storm inside, warning that Congress dodged a "major bullet" that the attack wasn't worse.

"They could have blown the building up. They could have killed us all. They could've destroyed the government," Graham told reporters. "Lethal force should have been used. ... We dodged a major bullet. If this is not a wake up call I don't know what is."

"How could that happen 20 years after 9/11. ... It is mind-boggling that such an event could occur," Graham said.

Graham's remarks are some of the strongest criticism from Republicans in the wake of Wednesday, when the joint session of Congress to count the Electoral College vote was suspended for hours after rioters entered the Capitol eventually vandalizing leadership offices and entering both the House and Senate chambers.

Graham echoed a call from Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) for Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger to resign. Schumer vowed to fire Stenger on Jan. 20, when Democrats take over the majority, if he hasn't resigned by then.

"Anyone in charge of defending the Capitol failed," Graham said. "The first thing that has to happen is to hold those accountable for failing to defend the nation's Capitol while the Congress was in session."

Videos of rioters in leadership offices and the chambers, as well as clashes with police who were at times outnumbered, have raised questions about the preparation for Wednesday's event.

Graham said that he wants a joint task force to be started to identify any individual who breached the Capitol.

"There is a ton of video evidence out there," Graham said. "The people sitting in the chairs need to be sitting in a jail cell. ... Sedition may be a charge for some of these people."

Graham said he planned to ask the Justice Department weekly for the next six years, the length of his Senate term, about the progress they are making in charging individuals who rioted in the Capitol.

"How could we not be prepared? How could in a joint session of Congress with the vice president in the building you not do better than this?" Graham asked. "Where were the National Guard?"

Several congressional committees have vowed to investigate how rioters were able to get into close proximity and then into the Capitol. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has also vowed a "painstaking investigation and thorough review."

"Initial bipartisan discussions have already begun among committees of oversight and Congressional Leadership," he added.



FBI Smacks Right-Wing Media With Stinging Fact-Check: No Sign Antifa Stormed Capitol

Fox News, Newsmax and Republican politicians get hit with the truth after an attempt to deflect criticism of Trump supporters for the attack on Congress.

The FBI on Friday slapped down claims by right-wing media — and some Republican politicians — that anti-fascist activists were behind the storming of the Capitol.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, evidence that was broadcast live across the nation, Fox News, Fox Business Network, Newsmax and other right-wing media outlets attempted to blame “antifa” for the lethal attack on the Capitol on Wednesday as frightened lawmakers huddled under their seats. The attack left five people dead, including Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick. 

FBI Assistant Director Steven D’Antuono said Friday that there is no evidence antifa activists were involved in the violent riot.

Asked during a call with reporters about claims that antifa dressed like supporters of Donald Trump before storming the Capitol, D’Antuono responded: “We have no indication of that,” CNBC reported.

Several people who were photographed rampaging through the Capitol, including some who have already been arrested, have prominent profiles as outspoken Trump supporters.

The claims about antifa quickly began to emerge Wednesday afternoon and spread on social media, fueled by Trump disciples, including televangelist Mark Burns, who falsely declared the action a “staged antifa attack.” 

Later that night, during the conclusion of the riot-interrupted Electoral College vote certification, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) also falsely suggested that members of the antifa movement were “masquerading as Trump supporters” as they attacked the Capitol. A baseless Washington Times article cited by Gaetz was later removed by the newspaper.

The false accusations were parroted on Fox and other right-wing outlets. All three of Fox News’ prime-time hosts ― Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham ― suggested that antifa or other outside forces could have infiltrated and triggered the attack on the Capitol.

The fantasy was also peddled by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.). 

In a four-part tweet Thursday, Brooks wrote that “evidence [is] growing that fascist ANTIFA orchestrated Capitol attack.”

Gosar’s claims appeared particularly insincere. Just days before the Capitol attack, Gosar had urged a group of his far-right followers to battle the results of the 2020 presidential election. “We’re fighting to the bitter end,” Gosar told the crowd. “This is our Alamo.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) falsely insisted Thursday that the attack was “confirmed to be antifa,” adding ironically: “Violence is not the answer.”



Feds say police found a pickup truck full of bombs and guns near Capitol insurrection as wide-ranging investigation unfurls


An Alabama man allegedly parked a pickup truck packed with 11 homemade bombs, an assault rifle and a handgun two blocks from the US Capitol building on Wednesday for hours before authorities ever noticed, according to federal prosecutors.

Another man allegedly showed up in the nation's capital with an assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and told acquaintances that he wanted to shoot or run over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prosecutors said.
The revelations are some of the most unsettling details federal prosecutors have made public this week as they detail the extent of the arsenal available to aid pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol. Other individuals have been accused of taking guns and ammunition onto Capitol grounds and more charges are expected to come as a wide-ranging investigation unfurls.
The details about the weapons cache in the pickup truck were contained in federal documents charging Lonnie Leroy Coffman of Falkville, Alabama, with federal offenses. A bomb squad detected the arsenal during the scramble to secure the federal complex after it was overrun by pro-Trump rioters and other bombs around Washington, D.C., were found.
The Department of Justice announced charges against 13 Capitol riot-related defendants on Friday, including a West Virginia lawmaker and a man who entered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office and sat at her desk.
The insurrection on Capitol Hill has shaken the nation's capital and the descriptions of the charges are adding to a growing understanding of the extremist elements of the crowd.
While Coffman has been arrested and charged with possession of an unregistered firearm and carrying a pistol without a license, Friday's sworn statement from police provides some of the most extreme allegations yet about the amount of danger around the Capitol building on Wednesday.
After hundreds of pro-Trump rioters pushed through barriers set up along the perimeter of the Capitol, demonstrators eventually made their way into the building and the House and Senate floors were evacuated by police.
Only after pleading from aides and congressional allies inside the besieged Capitol did President Donald Trump release a video urging the rioters to "go home," while still fanning their baseless grievances about a stolen election.
Coffman, 70, told police he had mason jars filled with "melted Styrofoam and gasoline." Federal investigators believe that combination, if exploded, would have the effect of napalm "insofar as it causes the flammable liquid to better stick to objects that it hits upon detonation," according to the court record.
Police also found cloth rags and lighters. The court documents said that those items and the explosive-filled mason jars "in close proximity to one another constitute a combination of parts" that could be used as a "destructive device."
Coffman had parked his pickup truck at 9:15 a.m. ET on First St SE on the Hill, near the National Republican Club, commonly called the Capitol Hill Club. That building is within a block of a large US House office building and the Library of Congress, according to the complaint. The truck also had a handgun on the passenger seat and an M4 Carbine assault rifle, along with rifle magazines loaded with ammunition, police said.
When police found and searched him about a block away after dusk, Coffman was also carrying a 9mm handgun and a .22-caliber handgun in each of his front pockets, the police complaint said. None of the weapons found in his truck or on his person were registered to him.Coffman appeared before a federal judge this week, and is being detained at least until his next court appearance on Tuesday. He has not yet entered a plea in court. The federal public defender representing him didn't respond to a request for comment on the allegations against him on Friday.
Another man came to Washington a day before Trump's rally with hundreds of rounds of ammunition and an assault rifle and had texted acquaintances that he wanted to shoot or run over Pelosi.
Federal authorities charged the man, Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr., with writing the threats and possessing an unregistered firearm and ammunition, and he is being detained at least until a court hearing next week, according to court documents obtained by CNN and his initial court proceedings on Friday.
Meredith had allegedly sent a text message saying he was thinking of "putting a bullet in [Pelosi's] noggin on Live TV" and another that said he was headed to Washington with "a s--- ton of ... armor piercing ammo," according to court documents. On Wednesday, he also allegedly texted about running over Pelosi. Meredith punctuated his messages with purple devil emojis, and used several slurs for women to refer to the speaker, the police said.
Meredith came into town a day before Trump's rally, though he had wanted to arrive earlier, the FBI said. He previously had protested outside of the home of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who is a central figure Trump and his supporters had attacked for confirming President-elect Joe Biden's vote win in the state.
Meredith had been staying at a Holiday Inn in southwest Washington this week and he let the FBI search his hotel room, phone, truck and its trailer Wednesday evening, the allegations said.
Inside the trailer, agents found three guns -- a Glock 19, a 9 mm pistol and an assault rifle -- and "approximately hundreds of rounds of ammunition."
Meredith said he knew he was not supposed to have firearms in the city, which has strict gun laws, so he moved them to the trailer, the complaint said. The FBI said in its arrest warrant documentation that it would be performing a full search on the trailer.
In all, 13 people are facing federal charges stemming from the riot, the Justice Department said Friday.
The full court records have not yet been made available for all defendants and only a handful of the individuals have made court appearances. In addition to those who have been charged, the Justice Department said that additional complaints "have been submitted and investigations are ongoing."
Coffman and Meredith are not the only people who now face weapons charges. Christopher Alberts, of Maryland, was accused of wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a handgun and 25 rounds of ammunition on Capitol grounds.
"The lawless destruction of the U.S. Capitol building was an attack against one of our Nation's greatest institutions," said acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin in a news release Friday.
"My Office, along with our law enforcement partners at all levels, have been expeditiously working and leveraging every resource to identify, arrest, and begin prosecuting these individuals who took part in the brazen criminal acts at the U.S. Capitol."
Steven D'Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, explained: "Just because you've left the DC region you can still expect a knock on the door if we find out you were part of the criminal activity at the Capitol,"
Richard Barnett
Richard Barnett
"The FBI is not sparing any resources in this investigation," he said, noting that agents from all 56 field offices are involved in the investigation combing through videos, social media posts and tips from the public.
"Today's charges are just the start of the results of the extensive work done by the FBI and our partners for the past few days, and we are far from done," D'Antuono added.
That message was echoed by Ken Kohl, the second highest-ranking official in the US attorney's office for DC, who said Friday, "We literally have hundreds of prosecutors and agents working from three command centers on what is really a 24/7 operation."
He added, "The department will spare no resources in our efforts to hold all these people accountable. It's going to be something that we'll continue to work on in the coming hours, days, and weeks as we pursue this investigation."
Among those facing federal charges is Richard Barnett of Arkansas, who was photographed sitting at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's desk during Wednesday's riots. Federal authorities say he was taken into custody Friday morning in Little Rock.
Barnett, who is known as Bigo, was charged with knowingly entering or remaining in restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds as well as the theft of public property, according to a criminal complaint.
It was not immediately clear whether Barnett has an attorney.
Barnett is in FBI custody, the Benton County, Arkansas, sheriff's office public information officer Lt. Shannon Jenkins confirmed to CNN. "He is in the custody of the FBI. He did not get booked into our facility. He was transported to another facility and in the custody of the FBI," she said in an email.
When asked, Jenkins did not provide the name of the facility that Barnett was transferred to.
Authorities say Barnett was caught on video surveillance entering Pelosi's office area around 2:50 p.m. ET with an American flag and cellphone, and leaving six minutes later with only his cellphone.
Barnett was photographed with his boot propped on Pelosi's desk and the flag draped nearby.
He later spoke with media outlets and was captured on video holding an envelope from Pelosi's office. Barnett told the reporter, "I did not steal it." He said he bled on the envelope and "put a quarter on her desk," according to court filings signed by a special agent with the Capitol Police Department.
Even as more arrests are made in connection with the breach of the Capitol, lawmakers say they are perplexed at the lack of preparedness among law enforcement given that it had been known for weeks that Trump was promoting a rally he said was aimed at preventing the certification of Joe Biden's win.
In response, US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund is resigning. He said in a statement Thursday that Capitol Police and other law enforcement officers were "actively attacked" with metal pipes and other weapons.
"They were determined to enter into the Capitol Building by causing great damage," Sund said.
"The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C.," he added. "Maintaining public safety in an open environment -- specifically for First Amendment activities -- has long been a challenge."
Beyond just arrests, multiple rioters who were at the Capitol are being identified through images and video on social media, and some have lost or left their jobs because of it.
Direct marketing company Navistar, for example, announced that an employee had been terminated after he was photographed wearing his company ID badge inside the breached Capitol.
"While we support all employees' right to peaceful, lawful exercise of free speech, any employee demonstrating dangerous conduct that endangers the health and safety of others will no longer have an employment opportunity with Navistar Direct Marketing," the company said in a statement provided to CNN.

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