The average black family has managed to accumulate about $7,000 in wealth, compared with $111,000 for the average white household, making it difficult for historically black colleges to find parents and grandparents affluent enough to write big checks for buildings, programs and scholarships. Alumni do give, Francis said, but the donations are often small.
The endowments at the nation’s black colleges reflect this stark reality. Howard University in Washington has the largest endowment of all the colleges by far, at $586 million. (The largest endowment among historically white institutions is Harvard’s $32 billion.) Over all, the gap between the endowments of historically black colleges and others has doubled in the last two decades.
Without big endowments, the colleges rely heavily on tuition, making them extremely vulnerable to stagnating or declining enrollments. Because they are designed to serve students with little wealth, they cannot make up the shortfall by raising tuition. The average tuition of private historically black colleges is half that of private predominantly white colleges. This means they are often not in a position to pay competitive faculty salaries and build the fancy buildings and other facilities that college students shop for.
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