Untapped Assets: Stillman College And The Landscape Of HBCUs

Impact in Action: Profiles of Higher Education is a three-part series looking at new partnerships and financial strategies enabling higher education institutions to serve as catalysts for impact-centered economic and workforce development. The series looks at the strategies and tactics schools can implement for greater success and stability.

Part 1, Rowan University: A Blue-Collar Soul, we see how the Glassboro, New Jersey school used a number of new ideas to maintain its mission of serving first-generation students while its enrollment and stature as a research institution was on the rise.

Part 2, Untapped Assets: Stillman College And The Landscape Of HBCUs, shows how Historically Black Colleges and Universities are working with investment and development firms to use real estate assets to generate revenue, catalyze economic development in underserved areas and provide workforce training for their student populations.

Part 3, University of Virginia Wise And Entrepreneurship In Appalachian Virginia, features new partnerships and financial strategies that drive development for underserved communities.

These profiles were produced by the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University with support from Lumina Foundation. As a collection, they show academic institutions using innovative approaches including:

  • Using multiple tools to build stronger financial positions including new public financing programs such as Opportunity Zones and New Market Tax Credits, as well as regional programs
  • Building new and enhanced partnerships with local business and government communities
  • Creating innovative approaches to online learning

To cope with the unprecedented challenge of a pandemic and the worst economic downturn in nearly a century, these colleges and universities are adopting an expansive mindset that sheds old ideas about the boundaries of an academic institution.

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Untapped Assets: Stillman College And The Landscape Of HBCUs

By 2017, Stillman College, like some other HBCUs, had been coping with declining enrollment and straitened financial circumstances for years.

Dr. Cythina Warrick, president, arrived at Stillman in 2017 as the Interim President. She actively tried NOT to take the permanent position at Stillman. But its students work hard to stay in school, and they won her heart. “It’s hard to turn your back on poor children,” she said. She recounted the story of a student who wore the same clothes every day. When the staff asked if they could give him money to wash his clothes, he explained they were the only ones he had. 

HBCUs, including Stillman, provide access to higher education for low- income and minority students who would otherwise not attend college. Some 75% of HBCU students are Pell-eligible. HBCUs graduate those students at higher rates than other higher education institutions.  Many HBCUs have struggled financially due to reliance on tuition, the higher cost of borrowing and rising income disparity.  

“Stillman College and the Landscape of HBCUs: Untapped Assets” illustrates how HBCUs are working with investment firms to use real estate assets to generate revenue, catalyze economic development in underserved areas, and provide workforce training for their student populations. Stillman College is taking proactive steps under the leadership of Dr. Warrick to partner with real estate developers, investors and city leaders. Some new players have been drawn together by Opportunity Zones legislation, though at Stillman, the legislation has yet to produce tangible benefits.

Additional Information

Give Ear To My Word: Stillman’s Great Ambassador

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