HBCUs Gain $5.6 Million Grant From Wells Fargo Foundation To Help Students Overcome Financial Hardships That Could Reduce Graduation Rates

For students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), paying for food and housing or facing college debt can be barriers that cause financial hardship or reduce their chances of graduation.

But a new $5.6 million grant awarded to the HBCU Community Development Action Coalition from the Wells Fargo Foundation to address racial wealth disparities is aimed to help HBCU undergraduates conquer such obstacles.

The funding will be used for a fresh financial wellness program—Our Money Matters (OMM). The effort will initially be on seven campuses: Allen University, Bowie State University, Lincoln University, Miles College, Morris Brown College, Southern University at New Orleans, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, a federally designated Minority-Serving Institution. 

Over the next three years, OMM will expand to 25 HBCU and Minority Serving Institution (MSI) campuses across America. It’s aimed to equip roughly 40,000 students of color and the extended community with much-needed financial capability skills, personalized tools for managing finances and student loans, and access to support services like career closets and emergency financial aid.

“The initiation of the OMM program is especially timely as the economic burden of COVID-19 is projected to have a devastating impact on HBCUs, MSIs, and surrounding communities,” Ron Butler, CEO of HBCU CDAC, stated in a news release.

“The OMM program is a proactive solution positioned to address these issues and generational wealth disparities within communities of color. Our partnership with the Wells Fargo Foundation demonstrates our aligned interest in equipping our partner institutions and their surrounding communities with the financial tools needed to create wealth for generations to come.”

The initiative is needed as over 70% of HBCU students are Pell-eligible, and students of color disproportionately face greater college debt, housing and food insecurity, and other financial hardships. Research shows that financial health initiatives can help reduce college debt and financial stress, increase college graduation rates, and prepare students to manage their finances for a lifetime.

Darlene Goins, head of Financial Health Philanthropy at Wells Fargo, commented on the effort.

“As a financial institution, we believe we have a responsibility to do even more to accelerate financial inclusion for people of color,” she stated. “HBCUs and MSIs are known for helping generations of Black youth and other students of color achieve academic and professional success. Working with HBCU CDAC, we hope to support students who may be navigating complex financial challenges and give them a stronger foundation for future success and opportunities for wealth generation.”

Through its holistic “wrap around” approach to addressing countless factors contributing to the persistent wealth gap, OMM’s programs and resources will engage, educate, support, and scale financial capability and wealth creation in communities of color while disrupting and removing barriers to economic opportunity. The program has three primary components:

  •  The Online Financial Counseling Hub, powered by iGrad, is a digital platform that helps students manage their day-to-day finances and build new skills and habits for life after college, including personalized tools for managing student loans, car loan calculators, and investment analyzers and access to certified financial planners.
  •  The Financial Curriculum, developed in collaboration with academics and financial professionals, includes various financial health courses and interactive activities. Faculty and staff can also integrate into general education and degree programs.
  • OMM Service Suite connects students with on-campus and community-based support services such as housing assistance, employment opportunities, and career closets that provide access to appropriate interview and work attire.

Dr. Brenda A. Allen, president at Lincoln University, commented, “Lincoln remains committed to supporting students to persist to and through graduation. This comprehensive education program teaches students financial literacy and connects them with resources to address their financial gaps.”

Bobbie Knight, president at Miles College, shared how Our Money Matters will benefit students. “This program will provide an important tool to teach our students the importance of good money management and financial responsibility.”

Students and others wanting to learn more about the program can do so here.