According to a 2008 report by the Congressional Research Service, many HBCU’s face difficulty competing for federal research dollars with other research universities. Federal trend data reveal that research-performing HBCU’s have not shared proportionately in the distribution of federal research and development (R&D) dollars going to colleges and universities. Although funding to HBCU’s has increased in the past 10 years in absolute terms, it remains only a small fraction of the total awarded to all U.S. colleges and universities. Moreover, the report noted that among HBCU’s, funding was unevenly distributed (much like it is among majority institutions). Funding for non-HBCU’s also is concentrated at selected institutions. For example, in FY2005, the top 10 HBCU’s (in terms of receipt of federal R&D support to HBCU’s) accounted for approximately 52.7 percent of total federal R&D support, and the top 20 HBCU’s accounted for approximately 72 percent of total R&D support. This trend leaves 85 HBCU’s, many that would benefit greatly from R&D dollars, without funding.
One of the main reasons why HBCU’s have difficulty securing federal grants is that they often lack the infrastructure for securing them as well as the infrastructure for maintaining them. Managing larger federal grants takes an inordinate amount of work. Most HBCU’s have very few staff members in the grant writing and management area. In addition, faculty members have heavy teaching and advising responsibilities.
Despite some of these challenges, Fayetteville State University is gearing up to secure federal dollars and become a Center for Excellence with its Center for Defense and Homeland Security and their approach is a model for other HBCU’s. First, the center, which is directed by Curtis Charles, is interdisciplinary in its approach, bringing together 22 of the institution’s top faculty members that focus on issues of national security. With this approach, the institution is able to garner buy-in across the institution for the center. Second, with the center, Chancellor James Anderson is set on preparing the next generation of individuals working in national security and well as emergency management. Third, Fayetteville State put a business model in place and hired personnel that have great success in both securing and managing large federal grants. Fourth, the institution has created partnerships with industry, including faculty mentorship programs, student workstudy opportunities, and co-applying for grants. Fifth, the center has both an internal and external advisory board. The internal board cuts across the various schools and provides institutional buy in for the center’s ideas. The external board is made up of key leaders in industry, higher education, and government. Sixth, the institution is engaging its alumni in the center and nurturing their support. And lastly, the institution is bringing together faculty research, industry, undergraduate research, and K-12 outreach in one endeavor, making Fayetteville State a strong contender to garner federal support for their center.
Although many of the approaches being used by Fayetteville State are commonplace at large research universities, they are not at HBCU’s. FSU has one of the most comprehensive approaches in place and other research-focused HBCU’s should pay attention.