GSU set to join Thurgood Marshall coalition to drive long-term progress at HBCUs

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), UNCF (United Negro College Fund), and Partnership for Education Advancement have launched a landmark collaboration to drive tangible, long-term progress for Grambling State University and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) while also impacting the Black economy.

What has been dubbed the HBCU Transformation Project is a first-of-its-kind collaboration aimed at increasing HBCU health and sustainability, improving student outcomes in retention and graduation rates, expanding enrollment, and increasing capacity building with faculty and staff. Flexible support from the coalition focuses resources the highest priorities at each institution.

The initiative will be executed using a cohort model of select institutions.

Institutions participating in the inaugural HBCU Transformation Project HBCUs are Alabama State, Benedict, Claftin, Clark Atlanta, Delaware State, Dillard, Florida A&M, Hampton, Huston-Tilotson, Johnson C. Smith, Morehouse, Norfolk State, North Carolina A&T, South Carolina State, Spelman, Talladega College, Tuskegee, University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Wiley College and Winston-Salem State University.

Grambling State will be a part of the second coalition group.

The overall initiative is structured around six interdependent sub-initiatives that work in service of supporting all HBCUs:

• Institutional improvement and innovation via TMCF, UNCF, and the Partnership for Education Advancement
• Institutional and intermediary capacity building to lead and sustain ongoing improvements
• Pursue increased public funding for HBCUs to rectify historic inequities
• Private capital campaign for endowments and sustainable reserves
• Community and regional economic development partnerships
• Reorienting the narratives surrounding HBCUs toward their outsized impact on social and economic mobility outcomes

“This HBCU Transformation Project is a first-of-its-kind collaboration that aims to support the Office of Transformation by providing sustainable, strategic operation support and technology-focused solutions,” said Cheresa Simpson, director of Organization Research and Effectiveness for the Thurgood Marshall Fund. “This support will increase HBCU health and sustainability, improve student outcomes in retention and graduation rates, expand enrollment, and increase capacity building with faculty and staff.

“For GSU, some of the support efforts include adopting and implementing solutions that will assist and enhance processes in financial aid solutions, strategic enrollment planning, search engine optimization, value proposition, advancement and career services, online/digital learning and student/parent engagement.”

Simpson said there are a number of responsibilities of a transformation officer which essentially are the responsibilities/goals of the unit:

Leading the institution through the transformation

Role modeling forward progress and the execution mindset

Holding a cadence of transformation office meetings to support initiative owners in the implementation of initiatives and providing problem solving support when issues or delays arise

Overseeing performance tracking ensuring that initiative owners update info about progress with initiative implementation plans, key performance indicators and financial impacts

Challenging pace and performance of implementation

Prioritizing initiatives for grant funding and ensuring good stewardship of grant funds

Ensuring accountability across stakeholders

Managing external communications and updates

Blue Meridian Partners, a pioneering philanthropic model for finding and funding scalable solutions to problems that limit economic and social mobility for America’s young people and families in poverty, committed an initial $60 million to support the HBCU Transformation Project.

While they represent only 3% of all Higher Education institutions, HBCUs produce nearly 20% of all African American college graduates. HBCUs have produced more than a million associate, bachelor, master and doctoral degrees combined since 1984.

HBCUs produce 40% of all Black engineers, 40% of Black Congress members, 50% of all Black lawyers, 50% of all Black doctors, and 80% of Black judges. These professions are critical for closing the wealth gap between Black and White workers.

While HBCUs overproduce relative to their better-resourced counterparts, they have remained underfunded. Historical underfunding has led to a myriad of financial issues for HBCUs, particularly much smaller endowments relative to their peers.

“Our country has under-invested in HBCUs which have a proven track record for unlocking student potential, driving socioeconomic mobility, and serving as significant community assets,” said James Runcie, president of the Partnership for Education Advancement.

Data recently released by McKinsey & Company shows that investing in HBCUs would profoundly affect the U.S. economy and help fill the social and economic gaps Black Americans experience. HBCUs are uniquely positioned to foster such advancement given their assets, experience, and cultural and historical significance.

“This collaboration offers a powerful opportunity to drive positive socioeconomic impact,” said Thurgood Marshall College Fund President & CEO Dr. Harry L. Williams. “We are proud to partner on this unique, capacity-focused strategy that brings together HBCU institutional relationships and the capacity building experience of TMCF, UNCF, and the Partnership for Education Advancement.”

UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax said that UNCF and Thurgood Marshall College Fund have worked together for many years.

“This collaboration is a continuation of our efforts to amplify support for the needs of HBCUs and the students they serve,” Lomax said. “Blue Meridian Partners support is very important and will significantly enhance the HBCU innovation and transformation work that UNCF’s Institute Capacity Building team has been pioneering for nearly two decades. This high-profile campaign will make the case to donors and to the government to elevate the profile of HBCUs and raise the support they deserve.”

Jim Shelton, Blue Meridian Partners chief investment and innovation officer, said that HBCUs have long overperformed as engines of opportunity.

“With this investment, we aim to significantly strengthen these institutions and student success at scale, contribute to closing racial gaps in access to opportunity, and boost economic mobility and wealth-building among Black people and communities now and for generations to come,” Shelton said.

For more information, contact GSU University Transformation Officer Larry Green at