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AP analysis: Wealth, enrollment disparities threaten smaller Black colleges

Dr. Paulette Dillard, President of Shaw University, a private Black university, poses on campus in Raleigh, N.C., July 12, 2021. “While larger HBCUs often have the funding resources necessary to attract accomplished talent like Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates, many smaller institutions need donors to step forward, contributing much-needed financial resources for us to compete,” said Dr. Dillard. The school has lost more than half its enrollment over the past decade and did not benefit from the private fundraising for Black colleges that grew out of the 2020 racial justice protests. (AP Photo / Gerry Broome)

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Louisville, Kentucky, statehouse reporter Piper Hudspeth Blackburn and San Francisco-based data journalist Camille Fassett, both Report for America journalists, teamed up with Atlanta statehouse correspondent and education team member Jeff Amy and New York data journalist Larry Fenn to reveal wide disparities among the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities, with many smaller private schools fighting for survival.

The reporting by Hudspeth Blackburn and Amy was built on an analysis of enrollment and endowment data by Fenn and Fassett. They found that many smaller, lesser-known HBCUs are struggling with weak endowments, aging buildings and steady enrollment declines. And while HBCUs in the U.S. have received millions of dollars in federal coronavirus aid and fresh attention after last summer’s racial justice protests, not all benefit equally.

The team’s comprehensive story was complemented by embeddable graphics illustrating the disparities, and advance detailed data on all 102 HBCUs for localization by AP customers.

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