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Sharpening a Competitive Edge: How HBCUs Leverage Their Strengths with Strategic Partnerships

Reimagining Historically Black Colleges and Universities

ISBN: 978-1-80043-665-7, eISBN: 978-1-80043-664-0

Publication date: 26 May 2021


The Department of Education has declared historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) a rich resource for the nation – one that elicits pride and connotes achievement, according to its Website. 1 Those same institutions are grappling with an increasingly competitive environment in higher education. HBCUs remain a formidable force, but the question remains: How can they continue to compete and thrive in the complex, dynamic world of academe?

The answer: By playing to their strengths and forging new paths.

Essentially, HBCUs' greatest strength is their cultural makeup. Higher education is becoming increasingly competitive as universities of all sizes battle smaller population, a thriving economy, and less interest in academia (and its resulting debt). HBCUs, which have long been able to attract African-American students due to their status as cultural icons, now find themselves losing ground not only due to these issues but also due to the integration of institutions and the inflated costs of these mostly private institutions.

Some options that administrators have considered include merging with other institutions, marketing themselves to students of other races or nationalities, and creating specialized offerings (drone technology, for example) to remain competitive. But there is another option, and that is to take their strength – attracting African-American students – and create partnerships with corporations, government entities, and predominantly white institutions (PWIs).

The goal of such partnerships would be to increase philanthropic donations from and provide cultural exchanges and perspectives to diversity-sparse professional and education institutions that have nothing to lose and everything to gain by helping to produce well-trained workers of color.

This chapter would explore how HBCUs can develop private partnerships and leverage them to compete in today's world of higher education.


Buck, T.Z. and Parry, P. (2021), "Sharpening a Competitive Edge: How HBCUs Leverage Their Strengths with Strategic Partnerships", Crosby, G.B., White, K.A., Chanay, M.A. and Hilton, A.A. (Ed.) Reimagining Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Great Debates in Higher Education), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 89-96.



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