Board seeks endowment for HBCUs

Published 11:31 pm Saturday, June 23, 2012

JACKSON (AP) — After years of delay, members of the state’s College Board will again try to raise $34 million in private money to endow Mississippi’s three historically black universities.

The board pledged to raise a $35 million endowment over seven years for Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State when the Ayers discrimination case was settled in 2004.

So far, the only money raised is $1 million that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated shortly after the settlement was reached. Previous efforts to step up fundraising have been announced, but have gone nowhere.

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Ed Blakeslee, president of the College Board, made the new announcement during the board’s meeting Thursday.

“While any fundraising efforts may be an uphill battle in the current economic climate, we believe it is time to renew with vigor the focus on seeking donors,” said Blakeslee, a Gulfport resident. “Our universities need additional resources now more than ever.”

Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds said the state would roll out its fundraising strategy in the coming months.

“We really need to put forth a really good strategy and see if we can find some success,” Bounds said.

Colleges usually make intricate plans before starting on major fundraising drives, but it’s unclear how much planning the College Board has done. The board doesn’t usually solicit private donors on behalf of its institutions and doesn’t have anyone on its staff dedicated to asking for donations. Bounds said current employees and board members are being asked to pitch in. He said the College Board could consider hiring a fundraising consultant.

Colleges often kick off fundraising campaigns by announcing a major gift, but Bounds said the state had no such gift in hand.

The private endowment is meant to supplement $70 million in public money that is being set aside at $5 million a year over 14 years. Overall, the settlement is supposed to pump $503 million into the three schools. Some obligations, such as the requirement that the Legislature provide money to fund academic programs, are already beginning to taper off.

Investment income from both the public and private endowments is supposed to be used to increase the presence of non-black students and enhance academic programs.

The schools can gain control of the endowments if non-black students climb to 10 percent of the student body for three years in row. Alcorn met that goal several years ago. JSU and Mississippi Valley have not, so their endowments are still being managed by a committee.

Alcorn and Mississippi Valley get 28.3 percent each of the public and private endowments — about $30 million each if the whole $105 million is raised. JSU gets 43.4 percent, or just over $45 million.

Those amounts represent big bumps in the schools current nest eggs.

David Hoard, Jackson State’s vice president for institutional advancement, said the university and its foundation hold a combined endowment of $23 million.

Alcorn did not respond Friday to questions. A tax document shows that the Alcorn State University Foundation had assets of $14.4 million at June 30, 2011. Mississippi Valley has $1.7 million, said Angela Getter, the school’s vice president for university advancement.

Some other institutions have much larger pots of money. The University of Mississippi had a $469 million endowment in 2011, according to a recent study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Mississippi State University had $347 million, while the University of Southern Mississippi had $59 million.

JSU and Mississippi Valley have been trying to build up their fundraising. Hoard said JSU has raised $8.2 million in private donations in the budget year that runs to June 30. He said that amount was remarkable compared to the $2 million it raised the year before. JSU had a $50 million capital campaign earlier this decade.

Valley has had $825,000 in private giving this year. Getter said she’s hoping to push that total to $1 million in the last weeks of the budget year.

“We haven’t really had a very robust advancement capability at the institution, to get to the point where we could have a capital campaign,” she said.

Tax documents show the Alcorn’s foundation accepted gifts of $1.5 million in the year ended June 30, 2011.

Hoard said JSU’s top use of its endowment is to offer financial aid to prospective students. He said that if the university had a larger endowment “we will be able to assist more students in coming to school.”

Getter said she was concerned about competition and wondered if the schools and the College Board could coordinate their efforts. In the end, though, she said that “whatever they do would be an enhancement to what we do already.”

Hoard said that JSU focuses on alumni and individuals with connections to the school in its solicitations.

“I don’t see it as competition,” he said of the College Board’s effort.