During the 2016 presidential campaign, President Elect Donald J. Trump pledged to do something to strengthen urban areas. To strengthen urban areas of highest distress and lowest attainment, the nation must leverage the resources of the anchor institutions in these communities, institutions such as HBCUs. Most HBCUs are the economic engines in their communities. They are by-and-large located in the “belly of the beast”–in areas of least advantage in both urban and rural areas. The short-term economic impact of HBCUs is $13 billion.
With support from HUD through the years, HBCUs have been leading in revitalizing their service communities. They possess professors, researchers, centers of excellence, medical and other human needs centers, and the wide range of experts in disciplines necessary for America’s urban and rural communities to thrive. HBCUs have been dubbed “communiversities” in acknowledgement of their centrality to helping American communities thrive.
Unfortunately, in the past several years, funds for the HUD University Community Fund were zeroed out. Although the Fund provided modest grants, it enabled HBCUs to leverage those sparse funds to increase their “communiversity” work in their service areas.
The HUD University Community Fund helped HBCUs and their Community Development Corporations to accelerate their efforts at revitalizing their service areas, building housing, incubating small businesses, offering health, human needs, academic enrichment, cultural, athletic, and religious services to those in surrounding areas. In rural areas, our campuses are the providers of water, sewer, electrical, public safety, and first responder services to the neighboring communities.
HBCUs have in place courses, programs, and services to abate crime, blight, vandalism, loss of neighbors, friends, and loss of hope in the HBCU service areas. Many HBCUs are preparing the nation’s foremost engineers, architects, community and economic development professionals. Others are providers of training, goods and services, opportunities and optimism to the most distressed communities in America.
NAFEO proposes to partner with the Trump Administration to assist it in realizing its economic stimulus, urban and rural community and economic development initiatives with HBCUs and PBIs as the epicenters. Given the current state of our urban communities of highest distress, a Marshall Plan-type of urban initiative is indicated, that will place HBCUs as its epicenter. This type of initiative, driven by HBCUs in partnership with not-for-profit associations, faith-based associations, and other human service and human needs entities, could enable President Elect Trump to realize his pledge of developing more thriving American urban centers.