U.S. Small Business Administration needs to do more for HBCUs, Evans says

Students walk the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo, file)

Students walk the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo, file)

This article originally appeared on The Philadelphia Tribune.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is not doing what it is supposed to do to help historically Black colleges and universities, Congressman Dwight Evans said this week.

“It’s a lost opportunity and for the things that I’m trying to change in the Third Congressional District, building Black minority development is a part of the tool in the toolbox to address poverty,” said Evans, whose district includes Philadelphia. “What better way to link up with the Cheyneys and the Lincolns of the world to build entrepreneurship.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Eighteen HBCUs are in the SBA’s Small Business Development Center network, which operates service centers that provide internships and business counseling to students and the community; Lincoln and Cheyney are not among them.

“I am actually fascinated that it would appear there hasn’t been outreach to Lincoln from the SBA,” Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, who represents Pennsylvania’s Sixth District including Chester County, said during a House Small Business Committee hearing this week. Lincoln University is in Chester County. Houlahan noted that two SBA regional centers are located approximately 40 and 60 miles away from the institution.

Michael Casson, dean of the Delaware State University School of Business, said infrastructure, alumni community partnerships and community engagement would be helpful moving forward with the SBA.

“The impact of SBA’s funding and services could be exponentially greater if HBCUs and the SBA strategically worked together to develop targeted programming and effectively integrated the talent and resources of one another,” he said.

Under the presidential Executive Order on the White House Initiative to Promote Excellence and Innovation at HBCUs, federal agencies are required to offer support for HBCUs through projects, programs and policies that President Donald Trump issued in February 2017.

Congresswoman Alma Adams asked that the U.S. Government Accountability Office study the SBA to determine whether it was meeting the mandate.

“Historically, HBCUs have been at a disadvantage when it comes to federal resources,” Adams said. “I hope we can move from collaboration to contracts.”

The study was conducted between November 2018 and March 2019. Anna Maria Ortiz, the acting director for financial markets and community investment for GAO and author of the resulting report, said the SBA has had very little activity with HBCUs.

The agency’s entrepreneurship programs do not specifically target HBCUs, the report says. Only two of the HBCUs in the Small Business Development Center Network have service centers that are fully funded by the SBA; the other 16 have subcontracts to run service centers.

Meanwhile, 61 other institutions — including nonprofits and predominantly white colleges and universities — have service centers that are fully funded by the SBA, and 884 have subcontracts to run service centers.

The two HBCUs with fully funded service centers are Howard University in Washington, D.C., and the University of the Virgin Islands.

Barron H. Harvey, dean of the Howard University School of Business, said the school has a great relationship with SBA, but acknowledged it might be partially because the college and the SBA headquarters are both located in the District of Columbia.

Still, he said, “There’s more that can be done moving forward, in terms of development, maybe offering college credit to students who attend workshops, conferences and more.”

Allen Gutierrez, the associate administrator with the SBA’s Office of Entrepreneurial Development, said the SBA intends to do more moving forward to improve partnerships with HBCUs.

“Everything is out on the table now,” Adams said of the report and hearing. “Let’s just take what we have and move forward to improve the situation so that it’s a win-win for for everybody, the SBA and for our schools.”

rpersinger@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5724

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal