Author:                 Published: 4/30/2020                 Thurood  Marshall-College-Fund

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It’s an unfortunate reality that some of our most vulnerable students face the most
hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic response. Many of these students do not
have a safety net. Any financial loss they or their families experience may force them to
drop out of college. Others lack access to computers and high-speed Internet, which
makes online and remote learning challenging, if not impossible. Meanwhile, our students
who have children have sudden and ongoing childcare needs that could make the
completion of college courses difficult. It is incumbent on all of us to try to mitigate these
concerns so our deserving students can continue to work toward achieving their dreams.”
– TMCF member-school Winston-Salem State University CFO
Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, colleges and universities have closed their
campuses, told students to return home, and moved to online instruction. These
necessary actions may force HBCU students to drop out, due to financial hardship and
lack of access to the required technology. Over 72% of HBCU students are Pell Grant
eligible (family income less than $20,000 per year), and 43% rely on jobs to cover basic
living expenses. HBCUs themselves do not have the infrastructure to support students,
deliver online coursework, retain today’s students and ensure that next year’s students
enroll. To support HBCUs and their students, TMCF created its TMCF’s COVID-19 HBCU
Emergency Fund, which will cover HBCU student short-term costs due to the COVID-19
school closures, and provide HBCU medium and long-term financial support.
HBCU Student Short-Term Needs:
• Emergency funding to cover unanticipated relocation costs, food, shelter, and
• Access to technology to support online education, including mobile phones
with hotspots to support online learning in the place of internet access, laptops,
and access to e-textbooks. One TMCF member-school reports that 15% of its
student body does not have access to the internet in their homes.
Student Fund Distribution Plan: TMCF is working with each HBCU’s Foundation to
identify and vet students with needs in these target areas, and verify students’ need and
status. TMCF will send funds to each Foundation via ACH in the amount of verified
student need based on submitted receipts or invoices, to disburse to directly to the
students, thus not impacting students’ financial aid packages.
In addition, students need mental health support, due to the health crisis, stress
of the sudden changes, lack of resources, and/or homelessness caused by college dorm
closures. Some colleges continue to house those students who self-identified as not
being able to return home, but many others did not – and are in limbo with friends.
TMCF COVID-19 HBCU Medium and Long-Term Needs:
HBCUs – institutions that are highly dependent on tuition-based revenue –
experienced an immediate loss of revenue due closures and refunding room and board
money to students. Most of these expenses will be covered by federal CARES Act funds.
Nevertheless, HBCUs continue to incur unexpected costs as they pivot to online learning.
Most HBCUs do not have the infrastructure to support a true online education, and their
faculty do not have the required hardware. Faculty also are unsure how to assess
knowledge and skill acquisition or award grades. This can erode student retention, which
will impact institutional financial viability and accreditation.
TMCF has identified the following HBCU institutional needs due to COVID-19:
1. Online education infrastructure, training and hardware that will allow HBCUs to
deliver content, assess student knowledge and skill acquisition, and assessment
that will support student academic progression and graduation in accredited
programs. This would include appropriate technology for faculty to deliver
classes, as well as training for online course delivery and online assessments.
2. State-of-the-art enrollment and engagement technology that allows schools to
continue to be engaged with their current students and the students they have
recruited for the 2020-21 academic year. Being highly tuition dependent
institutions, HBCUs must recruit, enroll, and retain students each year in order to
be financially viable, which is also an accreditation issue. Yet, HBCUs lag behind
larger institutions in using technology to manage enrollment efficiently and to
engage current and potential students.
In the short-term HBCUs face challenges of supporting a large percentage of lowincome students (up to 90% at some HBCUs) as they manage the COVID-19 health crisis –
from unexpected costs to technology access – while providing online education for the
having an online education infrastructure. In the medium-term, HBCUs must support
students so they complete the semester and do not drop out. Long-term, HBCUs face
the challenges of students not returning to campus in the fall, either dropping out of
school or transferring to another school’s online program, or not enrolling for their first
year of college. All of these challenges require funding for infrastructure, equipment,
training, and mental health support that HBCUs do not have the funding to meet. For
more information or to contribute contact