How Did Cal State Northridge Receive a Grant Intended for HBCUs?

The Los Angeles Times today profiles a $100,000 grant awarded to Cal State Northridge to improve academic outcomes for minority students. A diversity grant for a predominantly white college isn’t unusual, but this grant, with funds awarded by the NCAA and originally intended for black and minority athletes, was initially created for partnership with a historically black college. From the LA Times:

“Given the demographics of the country, reaching a more diverse population was important,” said (National Urban Alliance President Eric) Cooper, who said his organization still plans to work with historically black colleges.

Cooper said he was also attracted to Northridge because the school’s president, Dianne Harrison, was enthusiastic. After Cooper gave a speech at a conference last December, Harrison approached him and said she wanted the program to come to her campus. “She was literally first in line,” Cooper said.

Northridge, according to the Times article, boasts a minority enrollment which includes a five percent and 42 percent Latino enrollment. And those numbers, in combination with an aggressive president who wound up in the right place at the right time, landed a six-figure designed for HBCUs on a west coast PWI. 

So what does it suggest for HBCUs? That they should pursue more Latino students in order to avail their campuses to funding created for minority learning outcomes? Many HBCUs are already engaged in this kind of recruitment, especially in places like Paul Quinn College in Dallas and in states like Florida by way of high school outreach.

Does it mean that presidents should be more aggressive about seeking non-profit partnerships? Many presidents already are, like Johnson C. Smith University and Bowie State University

So what separates HBCUs from community colleges, mid-size university and large PWIs seeking to boost minority enrollment and nonprofit partnerships? The answer will be expanding paid marketing efforts to accompany the brand that they already enjoy with thousands of black professionals and community activists, who simply aren’t familiar with the programs and initiatives at HBCUs which have synergy with their ideas. 

HBCUs have, fortunately, moved away from the ‘best kept secret’ mentality of marketing, but more campuses must move to reallocating and investing funds in paid media to engage black families, and black communities where they are. What people haven’t heard about, and aren’t talking about can kill a business, and if billion dollar companies like McDonald’s and Walmart can advertise to keep their product front of mind for consumers who already know what they are and where they are, why wouldn’t HBCUs do the same to promote themselves to a largely unaware audience?

Cooper wanted to work with HBCUs, despite not having attended an HBCU for any of his three degrees, and the Alliance being stationed in Long Island, NY. Maybe he has family or friends with HBCU ties, or maybe HBCU information is circulated among his network of contacts. But something made him initially aware of HBCUs to tell the Los Angeles Times that he wanted to give a black college $100,000 before changing his mind, and despite changing his mind, still wants to give money to HBCUs in the future. 

The objective is for HBCUs to consistently in front of people who are already predisposed and open to hearing messages about black colleges. That principle goes for nonprofit executives, black researchers, corporate executives and students, and it only gets done when people constantly see logos, hear news or information, or are exposed to testimonials from HBCU advocates. 

Moving people and stakeholders from passing interest to emotional investment – it can mean the difference in receiving a $100,000 grant, or making the Los Angeles Times for not getting one.


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