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NSU receives $150,000 UNCF planning grant

Norfolk State University is among 30 colleges and universities selected to receive planning grants from UNCF’s (United Negro College Fund) new Career Pathways Initiative (CPI), a highly-competitive grant process open to four-year historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly black institutions (PBIs) to help students gain the knowledge, preparation, insight and skills needed for meaningful employment upon graduation.

Lilly Endowment Inc. committed $50 million in October 2015 to launch the UNCF® Career Pathways Initiative to improve the job placement outcomes of graduates from HBCUs and PBIs. Institutions will employ various strategies to achieve this goal, including aligning curricula with local and national workforce needs, developing intentional career pathway options for students across their collegiate experience, and strengthening their career service operations. The collective planning grant distribution announced today totals $2.55 million, which has the potential to assist more than 66,000 students across the 30 colleges and universities.

“The UNCF® Career Pathways Initiative is not only important to HBCUs and PBIs, it is important for the entire American higher education system and the American global economy,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF president and CEO. “CPI will serve as a model of best practices for all colleges and universities to follow, in order to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our students and the demands of the ever-changing marketplace for talent. We’re excited that HBCUs and PBIs will be at the forefront of this new and impactful venture. We applaud all of the institutions that put their best foot forward in the interest of their students’ future careers, and we commend the 30 institutions that were selected.”

The rigorous and competitive grant process opened in December 2015 to 87 eligible public and private institutions, of which 81 were HBCUs and six were PBIs. The eligible institutions must have met select criteria, including being an accredited four-year degree-granting institution that awards most of its degrees at the bachelor’s level. Of the 87 eligible institutions, 70 applied for the planning grant and 30 were selected as grantees.

Of the 30 recipients, 29 are HBCUs and one is a PBI. Twenty-three of the selected grantees are among the 37 private UNCF-supported institutions. The six-month planning grants are one-time awards that help the institutions research and envision programs that will strengthen their efforts to prepare students for sustaining and meaningful careers. Award amounts vary based on the institution’s student enrollment. The 30 selected institutions are:

College/University City State Planning Grant Amount Tier Based on Enrollment
Clark Atlanta University Atlanta GA $150,000 Tier I
Fayetteville State University Fayetteville NC $150,000 Tier I
Jackson State University Jackson MS $150,000 Tier I
Morgan State University Baltimore MD $150,000 Tier I
Norfolk State University Norfolk VA $150,000 Tier I
Tennessee State University Nashville TN $150,000 Tier I
Benedict College Columbia SC $100,000 Tier II
Claflin University Orangeburg SC $100,000 Tier II
Florida Memorial University Miami FL $100,000 Tier II
Lincoln University Jefferson City MO $100,000 Tier II
Morehouse College Atlanta GA $100,000 Tier II
Oakwood University Huntsville AL $100,000 Tier II
Spelman College Atlanta GA $100,000 Tier II
Xavier University of Louisiana New Orleans LA $100,000 Tier II
University of West Alabama Livingston AL $100,000 Tier II
Bennett College Greensboro NC $50,000 Tier III
Dillard University New Orleans LA $50,000 Tier III
Edward Waters College Jacksonville FL $50,000 Tier III
Fisk University Nashville TN $50,000 Tier III
Huston-Tillotson University Austin TX $50,000 Tier III
Jarvis Christian College Hawkins TX $50,000 Tier III
LeMoyne-Owen College Memphis TN $50,000 Tier III
Philander Smith College Little Rock AR $50,000 Tier III
Rust College Holly Springs MS $50,000 Tier III
Saint Augustine’s University Raleigh NC $50,000 Tier III
Talladega College Talladega AL $50,000 Tier III
Tougaloo College Tougaloo MS $50,000 Tier III
Voorhees College Denmark SC $50,000 Tier III
Wilberforce University Wilberforce OH $50,000 Tier III
Wiley College Marshall TX $50,000 Tier III
TOTAL:     $2,550,000  

Tier I institutions enroll more than 2,500 students; Tier II institutions enroll between 1,250 and 2,499 students; and Tier III institutions enroll a maximum of 1,249 students.

CPI is designed to support participating institutions to strengthen career guidance and leverage the liberal arts education of students by adding—where needed—certain skills, experiences, and knowledge required by employers. Programs will be expected to engage college faculty in the development of curricula that is aligned with workforce needs to better prepare students to compete in careers of their choice. The initiative also will help institutions build partnerships with local and national employers and improve student career services.

Planning grantees were selected based on how well their proposals reflected understanding of the challenges facing students as they prepare for post-graduate employment. In addition, successful proposals included evidence that the institutions had connected with experts who can help them find innovative solutions. The 30 institutions will be eligible to compete for a smaller number of implementation grants, of $1 million to $1.5 million, to be announced this fall.

Since the Great Recession ended in 2009, the problem of underemployment has become a crisis for young adults. By early 2015, the underemployment rate for recent college graduates had reached 44 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The statistics are even more alarming for African American graduates. As recently as 2013, the unemployment rate for African American college graduates between ages 22 and 27 was 12.4 percent, more than twice the rate of their white counterparts. And in 2014, the share of recent African American college graduates who were underemployed soared to 56 percent. Furthermore, a recent Georgetown University workforce study found that African Americans are underrepresented in the number of college majors associated with the fastest-growing, highest-paying occupations, with only seven percent entering the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

UNCF® CPI was created to address these issues. This program falls under UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building (ICB), which works collaboratively with UNCF-member institutions to enhance their infrastructure, sustainability and success in a number of operational areas. Dr. Brian K. Bridges, UNCF vice president for research and member engagement, leads ICB efforts in addition to UNCF’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute (FDPRI).

“The mission of CPI truly validates our capacity-building work, as we aim to equip the next generation of 21st-century employees directly from HBCUs and PBIs,” Bridges said. “CPI will provide transformational support to institutions that do more with less, allowing them to further extend their ability to positively impact students’ lives for years after graduation.”

Data from FDPRI show that although HBCUs comprise only three percent of all four-year colleges and universities in the United States, these institutions award nearly 20 percent of the bachelor’s degrees earned by African American students nationally. Their impact with students in STEM fields is also significant, as 25 percent of bachelor degrees in STEM fields earned by African American students in the country are awarded by HBCUs.

CPI is led by director Edward Smith-Lewis, and its programmatic success will be measured through accountability and evaluation metrics that will be assessed periodically throughout the program and at its conclusion to determine impact, effectiveness and replicability. The inaugural annual convening of CPI grantees, to be held in June 2016 in Atlanta, will provide opportunities for participating institutions to share best practices, learn from each other and from leading experts in career preparation, and foster collaborations to maximize collective impact.

Lilly Endowment has been a supporter each year since UNCF’s inception in 1944 and its 2015 commitment of $50 million ties for the second-largest contribution that UNCF has received in its 72-year history.