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Oakwood gets boost from UNCF to increase enrollment, student success

HUNTSVILLE –The United Negro College Fund’s Institute for Capacity Building selected Oakwood University as one of 12 high-potential, Historically Black Colleges and Universities for its newest round of investments.

As a member of the new ICB cohort, the funding supports its commitment to institutional transformation aimed at propelling higher enrollment and student success.

“UNCF’s mission and calling are to continually improve Black higher education while building on the unparalleled success HBCUs have had on Black progress and excellence,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, founder, president, and CEO of the ICB.

“Forward-looking investors see a significant lever in our collective transformation work at a time when the nation is re-evaluating what constitutes a quality college education.”

ICB received support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Lilly Endowment; JP Morgan Chase & Co.; Ascendium Education Group and, most recently, Blue Meridian Partners.

Over the last three years, ICB has raised more than $100 million to support the 42 partnerships in its network.

Thanks to recent investments, ICB plans to expand its transformation network to more than 50 institutions in 2023 and aspires to partner with all 102 HBCUs and 64 Predominantly Black Institutions in the United States.

Ed Smith-Lewis, UNCF vice president of Strategic Partnerships and Institutional Programs, who leads ICB, said now is the right time to invest in HBCUs.

“While college enrollment declined nationwide, recent reports show HBCUs saw increases,” said Smith-Lewis. “We’ve been able to help HBCUs stay, not only relevant through the pandemic, but emerge even stronger through institutional innovation and collaboration.”

The impact of transformation efforts continues to build momentum with partners reporting significant gains in student enrollment, success and workforce outcomes.

According to a recent survey, nearly three-fourths of college presidents say that, to thrive, they must rethink their business models to respond to increasing diversity in higher education. They seek partners such as UNCF to guide that change.

ICB focuses on six strategies that provide direct support to its institutional partners while promoting the adoption of best practices throughout higher education. Those strategies involve transformation support, executive leadership, financial sustainability, digital solutions, knowledge management and strategy development.

ICB is also leading the development of HBCUv, a new online learning platform designed by and for HBCUs.

Rev. Dr. Darryl Ann Lai-Fang, ICB director of transformation support, said the collective efforts continue to demonstrate the outsized impact of HBCUs.

“Our schools have always done a lot more with a lot less,” said Dr. Lai-Fang. “They graduate more Black students who go on to lift entire communities. Now, our network of Black colleges and universities is demonstrating just how much it can teach the rest of higher education.”

The other 11 HBCUs included in the investments are Miles College in Fairfield; Stillman College in Tuscaloosa; Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach, Fla.; Edward Waters in Jacksonville, Fla.; Florida Memorial in Miami Gardens; Jarvis Christian in Hawkins, Tex.; Lane College in Jackson, Tenn.; Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark.; Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C.; Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss.; and Voorhees in Denmark, S.C.

A report from UNCF’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute on ICB’s first cohort of transformation partnerships will be released early next year.

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