New research advocates for enhanced state support for Florida’s HBCU institutions

by | Dec 5, 2023



  • The Helios Education Foundation, in partnership with the University of Florida’s Institute of Higher Education, released a study on Tuesday emphasizing the value of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Florida. 
  • Key findings include a projected $130,000 additional net value for Black students attending four-year colleges over 35 years and a 40 percent higher bachelor’s degree completion rate at HBCUs compared to predominantly white institutions.
  • In light of the findings, the Helios Education Foundation proposed several measures for the Florida Legislature to enhance the role and effectiveness of HBCUs, including increased state financial support, particularly for privately funded HBCUs, to offer more competitive financial aid packages and lower tuition costs, thereby improving accessibility for potential students.
  • The foundation also emphasized the importance of addressing funding disparities and encouraging private-sector investments in HBCUs.

A pair of studies conducted by the Helios Education Foundation, in collaboration with the University of Florida’s Institute of Higher Education, and published on Tuesday has prompted a set of recommendations for the Florida Legislature to boost the presence and effectiveness of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the state.

The findings, which were presented during a webinar event featuring a panel of education experts, highlight that Black students who attend four-year colleges or universities are projected to gain an additional $130,000 in net value over 35 years after enrollment. These students are also expected to earn, on average, $8,583 more per year than their peers who did not attend college. The study also demonstrates a 40 percent increase in bachelor’s degree completion among Black students attending HBCUs compared to those at predominantly white institutions.

Moreover, data shows that Florida’s HBCUs, a group comprised of Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and Florida Memorial University, excel in graduating Black students in STEM fields, surpassing other state universities.

“These findings point to a powerful narrative about Black students pursuing higher education – that college is still worth it,” said Paul J. Luna, Helios Education Foundation president and CEO. “Education is an investment that changes lives, and Helios is committed to creating more opportunities for student success in postsecondary education in Florida. This study makes a strong case that efforts to increase college enrollment rates have a substantial return on investment for Black high school graduates in Florida and for the state.”

In response, the Helios Education Foundation has proposed several actions for the state legislature to consider, including more substantial state financial support for HBCUs, especially those that are privately funded, to enable them to offer more competitive financial aid packages and reduce tuition costs, thereby making them more accessible to potential students.

“[HBCU] endowments are often not as big and so there might not be as many … financial aid packages that they can offer to students,” said Dr. Paul Perrault, Senior Vice President of Community Impact and Learning for Helios Education Foundation. “Lots of universities like the University of Florida [and] Florida State University are going to have higher endowments that allow them to get more financial aid packages, especially to low-income students.”

Supplementary to this proposal, speakers floated the idea of creating and supporting policies that address the specific challenges and needs of HBCUs, such as funding disparities and resource allocation, while encouraging private sector investments and collaborations with such institutions.

When you’re thinking about lower-income students, finance is going to be the biggest part of their minds, right? Where am I getting a better financial aid package?” Said Dr. Andrea Smyth, an assistant professor in the Department of Economics at Howard University. “And unfortunately, because HBCUs do not have the funds to compete with other institutions in terms of offering competitive financial aid packages, that’s going to be a big limiting factor.”

The state was also encouraged during the event to invest in the distinct academic strengths of each HBCU, including establishing industry partnerships, particularly in STEM fields, to enhance job opportunities and practical training for students. Moreover, organizers seek the implementation of statewide initiatives to raise awareness among high school students about the advantages of attending HBCUs.

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