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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Report Highlights COVID's Outsized Impact on HBCU Students' Basic Needs

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A survey of students at the nation's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) found nearly half have been food insecure in the last 30 days.

More than half experienced housing insecurity during the pandemic, with many students reporting choosing between paying rent or buying food. The report noted the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on HBCU students exacerbated existing racial inequities.

Terrell Strayhorn, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Virginia Union University and director of the Center for the Study of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, who co-authored the report, said investing in student needs is key to increasing student success.

"It's hard to feel you belong in higher education when your basic needs are not met," Strayhorn explained. "When you don't have enough money to pay your bills and have food and have a place to lay your head, but you're expected to show up for biology class."

The report noted HBCUs account for more than 20% of Black Americans' bachelors degrees, and they serve many Pell Grant-eligible students, meaning they qualify for the federal needs-based grant program.

Missouri has two HBCUs: Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis and Lincoln University, a land-grant institution in Jefferson City.

Public HBCUs rely on federal, state and local funding for more than half their revenue, compared with 38% for their predominantly white counterparts.

Andre Smith, political scientist at Fayetteville State University, formerly of Harris-Stowe State University, said Missouri's funding model for universities is performance based, and the two HBCUs as well as Missouri Western, a predominantly white institution in St. Joseph, end up on the low end.

"They have the neediest students who are going to require at an institutional level the most assistance," Smith pointed out. "But due to the funding model in Missouri, these three schools get the least amount of funding."

The report is a joint effort by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, and Virginia Union's Center for the Study of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It makes state and federal policy recommendations for lawmakers, including expanding financial aid and emergency aid options for HBCU students.