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PNC Foundation announces $2 million partnership with 5 North Carolina HBCUs

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The PNC Foundation announced Tuesday that it would provide $2 million in grants to five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in North Carolina.

The grants, PNC leaders said at a press conference, will allow these institutions to enhance their entrepreneurship curriculum and offerings, including adding new programs, increasing capacity, and improving technology.

“At PNC, we recognize our success is directly proportional to the success of those we serve,” said Jim Hansen, PNC regional president for Eastern Carolinas. “We embrace the opportunity to leverage the power of the resources, so everyone can move forward financially.”

Here are the universities receiving the grants and what they plan to do:

  • Winston-Salem State University will fund an entrepreneurial fellowship program, which will provide workshops, research, and one-on-one mentoring to students.
  • Johnson C. Smith University and Fayetteville State University are both launching entrepreneurship hubs to provide students with a space to develop business ideas, including providing funding and mentoring.
  • Elizabeth City State University is also launching an entrepreneurial fellowship program. In addition, the university will build out its entrepreneur lab and host a Viking Shark Entrepreneurship Week, which will allow students to practice their business pitches.
  • N.C. Central University will establish the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development that will provide small business finance training to students.

The university leadership stressed the importance of both partnering and supporting HBCUs specifically.

Winston-Salem State University Chancellor Dr. Elwood Robinson said creating these pathways for students is what HBCUs are all about.

“We’re all economic engines in our regions,” Robinson said. “In Forsyth County, Winston-Salem State provides almost $500 million dollars to the local economy. This program will allow us to do more of that.”

N.C. Central University Chancellor Dr. Johnson Akinleye stressed the importance of investing in entrepreneurs of color.

“I think we already know, and as has been said already, that most entrepreneurs start from an academic institution — the Bill Gates, the Zuckerbergs,” Akinleye said, “and now our African American students and our minority students will have the same opportunity to fulfill a business idea and to be able to create innovative ideas that will last into the future.”

This grant funding comes at a time when much of the country is still trying to recover economically from the pandemic downturn. In North Carolina, the Black unemployment rate is 5.9% compared to a white unemployment rate of 3.8%, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

To learn more about the vital role HBCUs play in North Carolina, register for the Hunt Institute webinar, “Postsecondary Pathways | Listening to the NC10,” on Thursday, Feb. 3rd.

Anna Pogarcic

Anna Pogarcic is a Reporting and Engagement Fellow for EducationNC.