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Maryland’s HBCUs fuel economy, innovation and upward mobility

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Last December, Mackenzie Scott, the philanthropist and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, donated $85 million to three of Maryland’s four Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs.

The recipients of the generosity were Bowie State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES).

The gift generated a lot of buzz. But truth be told, there has been an abundance of good news unfolding at those three HBCUs as well as the fourth, Coppin State University, with more good news to come.

Consider these facts:

  • Maryland’s HBCUs generate $1 billion in economic impact and more than 9,300 on-campus and off-campus jobs, according to the UNCF report, HBCUs Make America Strong: The Positive Economic Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
  • The same report found that a “Maryland HBCU graduate working full-time throughout his or her working life can expect to earn $985,000 in additional income due to a college credential.”
  • The 3,536 HBCU students in Maryland who graduated in 2014 can expect 58% more in total lifetime earnings with their college credentials compared to their earnings if they did not graduate from an HBCU, the UNCF report found.
  • Bowie, with 6,300 students, is ranked by the Baltimore Business Journal as the fastest-growing four-year college in Maryland, with a 71% jump in applications since 2016.
  • Bowie, the first HBCU founded in Maryland, is ranked No. 24 among the 101 private and public HBCU’s nationally by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Coppin is planning a $45 million College of Business as it directs a focus on entrepreneurship across the institution.
  • Coppin also is expanding the translational research areas at its Center for Nanotechnology to include clean energy and biomedical applications.
  • UMES recently announced a partnership with Alaska Airlines so aviation science students can afford the steep cost of advanced flight training to become pilots.
  • At Morgan, the completion of a new Science Complex is expected in 2027.
  • Morgan is also considering a requirement that all undergraduate students complete an introductory course in computer science to graduate as it forecasts basic tech literacy as a key to future job opportunities.
  • Morgan’s leadership is also exploring launching new research programs in cutting-edge fields such as brain science, equitable artificial intelligence and health equity.

During a recent Newsmaker Speaker Series event hosted by the Greater Baltimore Committee– HBCUs: Hubs of Innovation and Excellence – the presidents of several of Maryland’s HBCUs noted that along with advancing research and academic courses at their institutions, they are focused on keeping tuition and other costs as low as possible.

“Finances should never be an impediment to college,” said Dr. David Wilson, President at Morgan, where undergraduate tuition for the 2021-2022 school year is $7,974 for in-state students.

Coppin’s President, Dr. Anthony Jenkins, underscores the same point by noting that “affordability and access” are a key focus of the university’s leadership as it seeks to open doors to students from disadvantaged backgrounds so they can advance on a track of upward economic and social mobility.

HBCUs in Maryland and elsewhere are vital to the economy, economic equity and upward social mobility.

“The education that HBCUs provide to their students, many of them from low-income families and the first in their families to attend college, helps the national economy fill critical jobs with college-educated workers who otherwise would not acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to compete in the evolving workforce,” UNCF’s former Vice President of Research and Member Engagement, Dr. Brian Bridges, is quoted as saying.

In Maryland, the four state HBCUs are having a sizeable footprint on untold students’ lives, the Maryland economy and its history.

By choosing to invest in HBCUs it is evident that Ms. Scott made a wise investment choice.

Don Fry is President & CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee and a regular contributor to The Daily Record.