We applaud the growing awareness of funding inequality and inequality that has long been felt by minority service organizations, including historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions. This focus on MSI needs is vital due to its important role in creating equitable economic opportunities for people of color. However, as the country faces a crisis in supporting black students that began before the epidemic and has accelerated since 2020, it is imperative that predominantly black institutions, such as we lead, are also at the forefront of higher education equity negotiations.
PBIs, like other MSIs, are recognized by the US Department of Education for providing underdeveloped and under-represented communities with significant access to higher education and experience of comparative funding challenges. Unfortunately, so far, we have not been part of the national media coverage or dialogue. Simply put, it needs to change. Only by including PBIs in the national higher education equity dialogue can the nation fully understand and meet the needs of black students.
What are PBIs?
We often see that, without national media coverage, many people are unfamiliar with PBI, who we are and what our PBI classification means. PBI is a higher education institution which:
- Serve at least 1,000 graduate students;
- Have a graduate enrollment that is at least 40 percent African American and at least 50 percent low-income or first-generation; And
- Spend a lower average per full-time graduate student than other institutions that offer similar instruction.
There are currently 67 PBIs, four-year universities and two-year colleges, urban and rural, aimed at educating the underprivileged. In 2018, PBIs accounted for 3 percent of all post-secondary institutions but enrolled 9 percent of all African American college students.
The PBI legally requires a student population that is predominantly low-income and first-generation students, and they face unique challenges related to college preparation, financial needs, retention, and graduation rates. Due to the lack of child care and financial support, PBIs also face challenges in transforming students from full-time to part-time.
Together, our country’s PBIs and HBCUs are uniquely committed to serving black students. Although PBI and HBCU serve the same population, they are different; An organization cannot be both HBCU and PBI. In fact, students attending PBI Community College are often transferred to the HBCU undergraduate program, and students who join a four-year PBI institution are more likely to attend the HBCU undergraduate program.
The epidemic unfortunately presents additional challenges for already low-funded PBIs. Although overall undergraduate enrollment declined nationally during the epidemic, the largest enrollment declines were in low-income and minority student populations that serve PBIs. PBI status (and PBI funding access) depends on the enrollment of black students. When enrollment declines, PBI rankings and access to funds are negatively affected.
Federal funding dilemma
The PBI needs strong federal support. As the country continues to struggle with equality issues in higher education, efforts to strengthen all higher education institutions that support minority students must also focus on the PBI. In FY 2021, PBIs received only 2.3 percent of the total funds going to MSI, despite enrolling about 5 percent of students studying at MSI.
Further, PBI funds are volatile. Historically, funding was available through the PBI Masters Degree Program, but that funding ended in 2014.
Clearly, all MSIs, including HBCUs and HSIs, need stronger federal support. Negotiations and efforts will continue to be made to increase and strengthen funding for HBCUs and HSIs. However, in order to strengthen and build equity for the approximately 308,000 students served by PBIs in the United States, the policy and funding equity dialogue must be expanded to include increased funding for PBIs. This is especially important because the effects of the epidemic on black and African American students are about to be felt.
We are encouraged by the potential financing opportunities for PBIs that could be created if the Build Back Better Act is passed; However, efforts to pass this important bill have stalled. In order to have adequate support for higher education institutions that serve black students, PBI funding needs to be substantially increased through appropriate funding streams that are funded year after year. A small group of PBI presidents rang the bell about the need for Congress to consider expanding the current PBI funding stream, replenishing delayed funding streams, and developing new opportunities for funding through future legislation. We are excited to see the interest so far and look forward to educating the higher education community and Congress about the PBI demand. We appreciate the important work done by MSI to highlight the funding equity issues; We hope that PBIs will also be included in the dialogue. Remedy for PBI funding inequality will only happen when we are fully at the table and part of the conversation.
|Definition||Institutions established before 1964 to educate black American students.||Institutions covered by the Higher Education Act of 2008 enroll at least 50 percent of low-income or first-generation students and serve at least 40 percent of black American students.|
|Number of organizations||About 100||About 67|
|Total enrollment||279,000||308,000 *|
|Approximately 2021 federal program allocation||
Total = about $ 516M
Total = about $ 28M
* Inside higher ed Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System 2019-20 Enrollment Data Analysis, https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/use-the-data. Analyzed March / April 2022.