Beverage company makes $ 10 million investment in HBCUs
To address student debt inequalities, Diageo North America – a beverage company known for Smirnoff vodka, Guinness beer, and Crown Royal whiskey, among other brands – donated $ 10 million to 25 colleges and historically black universities (HBCU) across the country.
Despite the lower cost of attendance, students who graduate from HBCUs have higher loan debt than those who did not attend HBCUs, according to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).
While black bachelor’s graduates borrow an average of $ 52,726, their white counterparts have an average of $ 28,006 in student loans, the US Department of Education reported. This means that black college graduates typically have $ 25,000 more in student loan debt.
“Not only are [Black and Brown communities] from a lower base salary in many cases, but they also have debt, ”said Danielle Robinson, head of corporate responsibility at Diageo North America. “They never really catch up to be on an equal footing with their white colleagues. Part of that effort is to help alleviate some of that financial debt when they enter the workforce and allow them to be more on par with their white colleagues. “
Each institution can use the funding to establish permanent endowments, while a portion of the money can provide financial assistance to students in various disciplines this spring and fall semester.
Selected HBCUs include Alabama A&M University, Alabama State University, Bowie State University, Clark Atlanta University, Delaware State University, Dillard University, Fisk University, Fort Valley State University, Florida A&M University, Grambling State University, Hampton University, Harris-Stowe State University, Howard University, Jackson State University, Kentucky State University, Morehouse College, Morgan State University, Norfolk State University, North Carolina A&T University, North Carolina Central University, Tennessee State University, Tuskegee University, University of Virgin Islands, Winston-Salem State University and Xavier University.
“The cost of attending college is a major source of stress for many students…” said Daryl Love, associate vice president of career services and professional development at Kentucky State University. “When students know they have the funds to make their dreams come true, they are more likely to continue their education until graduation and they are ready to take additional opportunities such as internships that will enhance their preparation. to career after graduation.
As part of the Enterprise Community Fund’s $ 20 million effort, the donation was established alongside the work of Diageo North America’s African Heritage Business Resource Group (AHEAD).
“I am very proud to work for a company that recognizes the need for businesses to come together to provide solutions to some of the disparities in our communities and our society,” said Robinson. “This is about helping to bridge the wealth gap from higher education students to American companies. “
Since their inception, HBCUs have strived to address the wealth gap. But they “can’t do it alone,” she added.
Marc A. Newman, vice president of advancement, research and economic development at Grambling State University, stressed the need for higher education to become a priority in legislative discussions.
“The ultimate goal of higher education is to level the playing field and create opportunities,” he said. “Financial support allows students to graduate and immediately start building their personal financial portfolio. “
In recent months, policymakers have sought to resolve the national student debt crisis. President Joe Biden recently announced a proposal to make four-year schools free for those with family incomes of up to $ 125,000 per year, as well as free access to community colleges.
With the aim of increasing the number of under-represented populations in the beverage industry, the funding will also create an internship platform, in which HBCU students can gain first-hand work experience in the beverage industry. industry.
Additionally, Diageo will help create innovation hubs for students to participate in hands-on learning and mentoring with industry professionals. Curriculum development will also be available to faculty members.
“We’re very excited about the innovation hubs,” said Robinson. “We can create them, personalize them. [They’re] really shaped behind what has been done for years in predominantly white institutions, but now in the HBCUs. It is very innovative work that we look forward to. “
Beyond this recent endowment, Diageo North America has implemented a number of programs over the years to diversify the beverage pipeline. In 2015, Diageo implemented the four-week Learning Skills for Life program to improve employment opportunities in areas with high adult unemployment rates, especially among ex-combatants and under-represented populations.
“I really encourage other businesses to step up,” Robinson said. “The world has changed and we really need to include all segments of our society, especially our HBCUs as they are the foundation of black culture when it comes to education. If we want to put our arms around this community, I think we all have to play a role in it. “
Sarah Wood can be contacted at [email protected].