Less than 0.7 percent of R&D spending in higher education goes to HBCUs

By John William Templeton

 Journal of Black Innovation  

WASHINGTON, DC –Jan. 28, 2022- Less than 0.7 percent of higher education research and development spending went to historically Black colleges and universities in Fiscal Year 2020, according to new date from the National Science Foundation.

Ironically, federal investment in higher education coincided with the creation of HBCUs in the 1860s. 

According to the Congressional Research Service, “With the passage of the first Morrill Act in 1862, the United States began a then-novel policy of providing federal support for postsecondary education, focused on agriculture and the mechanical arts. The national system of land-grant colleges and universities that has developed since then is recognized for its breadth, reach, and excellence in teaching, research, and extension.”

Michael T. Gibbons,  program officer in the National Center for Engineering and Science Statistics, reports that in Fiscal Year 2020, higher education received $86 billion for research and development — $37 billion from the federal government. HBCUs received $502 million–$355 million from the federal government.


    1.  Department of Health and Human Services        $114,608,000 to HBCUs
    2. National Science Foundation     $81,377,000 to HBCUs
    3. Department of Agriculture   $78,854,000 to HBCUs
    4. Department of Defense   $21,979,000 to HBCUs
    5. NASA $15,288,000 to HBCUs
    6. Department of Energy $11,621,000 to HBCUs 

In a September 2021 Executive Order, President Joseph R. Biden told federal agencies to take the following steps:

(C) working to break down barriers and expand pathways for HBCUs to access Federal funding and programs, particularly in areas of research and development, innovation, and financial and other support to students;

(D) strengthening the capacity of HBCUs to participate in Federal programs, access Federal resources, including grants and procurement opportunities, and partner with Federal agencies;

(E) advancing and coordinating efforts to ensure that HBCUs can respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and thoroughly support students’ holistic recovery, from academic engagement to social and emotional wellbeing;

Dr. Cynthia Warrick, President of Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, AL, wrote in the January Journal, “HBCUs can play a critical role in addressing scientific diversity. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the largest numbers of African Americans receiving STEM doctorates between 2002 and 2011, received their undergraduate degrees at HBCUs.  Out of the top 25 undergraduate institutions whose graduates went on to complete STEM doctorates (2,280), twelve HBCUs out produced prestigious institutions (Harvard, Yale, Brown, Michigan, UC Berkeley, MIT, Cornell, UVA, UNC Chapel Hill, etc.) by 64 percent.(10) HBCUs continue to play a critical role for equal educational opportunity in the US; over 70% of HBCU students receive Pell grants and are first generation college students. Today, HBCUs continue to lead in awarding African American undergraduate degrees in STEM; 31% of all African American biological degree recipients and 17% of all health professions degrees are from HBCUs.”

“Recently we learned that the major factor to increasing African American students’ interest and success in biomedical research is through research experiences in world class research environments.  We established partnerships with major research institutions to provide slots for Stillman students so the faculty can match students’ interest with the research opportunities and introduce them to the research staff in the lab or center in advance of a summer research experience.”

Howard University announced in August 2021 the construction of a 260,000 sa. ft. National Research Center for Health Disparities

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) has been selected to receive a one-time funding of a $50 million allocation which will be used to support the University’s upcoming new four-year medical degree program.  This funding, which was first approved by the California State Legislature in early June, will benefit the state by increasing the number of Black and Latino medical graduates in the health care workforce.

“We are deeply appreciative of this support from Governor Newsom and the State Legislature. With this funding, CDU aims to increase the number of Black medical graduates practicing in the State of California by almost 30% and the number of Latinx graduates by nearly 20%,” said CDU President and CEO Dr. David Carlisle.

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