NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — From politicians to athletes, there's been an increase in exposure for historically black colleges and universities. Nashville is home to four of them and university officials say they're hoping the spotlight can help with enrollment and finances.
Tennessee's four HBCUs are Fisk University, Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical College and American Baptist College. Phyllis Qualls, the vice president of institution advancement at American Baptist College says more young Black people are taking a second look at HBCUs.
But for years, the institutions have been underfunded and under-enrolled.
"It has not kept us from doing what we do well, nurturing students, developed students so they can go out and be changed agents in the world; whether that's in literature or whether that's in engineering and technology," Qualls said.
The American Council on Education reported in 2019, HBCUs represent just 3% of two-year and four-year public and private nonprofit institutions taking part in federal student financial aid programs, but they award 17% of all bachelor's degrees earned by black students.
But Qualls says she hopes the recent spotlight can change how young people view HBCU's.
"From sports to entertainment to politics, there is a lot of interest," Qualls said.
NBA star Chris Paul enrolled at Winston Salem-state. NFL legend Deion Sanders will coach at Jackson State. Democratic VP candidate and US Senator Kamala Harris is a Howard University graduate. And we can't forget American Baptist College's own John Lewis.
Qualls hopes this push will help keep many of these colleges alive.
"People are taking a re-look looking at us in a different way and say you know what, if that's the school that produces great human beings I want to invest in it," she said.
In December of 2019, President Donald Trump signed the Future Act, which provides more than $250 million a year to the nation’s HBCUs along with many other institutions serving large numbers of minority students.
The bill restored the $255 million in annual funding that had lapsed earlier in the year. In addition to $85 million a year for HBCUs, it authorized $100 million for Hispanic-serving institutions, $30 million for tribal schools and $40 million for other minority-serving institutions.