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Perspective | Understanding the needs of our HBCUs

In 2019, College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) started a historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) Committee to create a focus on the needs of our ten historic HBCUs in North Carolina when it comes to careers, admissions, and financial aid. This project began in the summer of 2019, with virtual listening sessions for financial aid staff, organized by CFNC Regional Representatives. In 2020, the committee members expanded to members from GearUP North Carolina and the North Carolina State Education Assistant Authority (NCSEAA).

Of course 2020 put a hold of some in-person outreach for HBCU students and staff, but it allowed for strategic virtual programming to go forward. The first year of these efforts focused on financial aid and financial literacy, covering topics such as understanding the Forgivable Education Loans for Service program (FELS); understanding your rights and responsibilities as a student loan borrower; and post-graduation financial fitness. In 2021 and 2022, we expanded our efforts beyond the financial aid office, inviting various student support staff and current students to multiple listening sessions, offering the chance for them to give suggestions on topics they would like more information on related to careers, college, financial aid, financial literacy, and more.

Out of these conversations was born a comprehensive series of virtual programming for HBCU students and parents, the most popular of which has been programs highlighting the HBCUs specifically in North Carolina. These programs have been facilitated in conjunction with the admissions offices at our HBCUs and provided information on the history of the schools in North Carolina, as well as highlights from each of these institutions, like historical context, academic achievements, and musical excellence.

Upon listening to students and staff, our committee learned that there were various topics they wanted to hear about that were not necessarily in our wheel-house. We acted as a conduit, offering a platform for these programs to take place and bringing in other experts to conduct the sessions. Topics have included self-care and mental health for HBCU students, information on applying and paying for graduate school, building wealth and funding retirement, and financial aid through a three-part series targeted to parents.

We are not done. We are looking forward to another program in February during Black History Month highlighting our fantastic HBCUs in North Carolina to a new cohort of high school students, as well as more listening sessions this summer. We are also planning to add some listening sessions and strategic planning for our minority-serving institutions (MSIs) in North Carolina, knowing that they also have various outreach needs that we need to understand better.

This has been a labor of love. We have always offered outreach to our HBCUs and MSIs in North Carolina. What this pointed effort has done is change the way we’ve approached this outreach. We remember to ask, listen, then plan, as they are the experts. Some programs we’ve conducted have been repeated on HBCU campuses across the state, which means we are headed in the right direction. North Carolina is paying attention to our HBCUs, and their light shines bright across our state.

Go here for a full list of HBCU webinars to date.

College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) is our state’s leading free education planning resource, offering career planning tools, college applications to North Carolina colleges, financial aid resources like a scholarship search tool and the FAFSA tracker, and financial literacy resources. has been helping students, families, and educators across North Carolina for over 20 years. In addition to the main free resources on the site, CFNC also assists with other educational attainment goals across the state. A few of these include campaigns to assist adult learners; myFutureNC’s FAFSA Tracker that will move to the CFNC website soon; and various committees to focus on topic such as the NC529 Plan.

April Query

Dr. April Query is the assistant vice president for college access and community outreach for College Foundation of North Carolina. Query has worked in educational outreach for 16 years, and has a research focus on funding education and American Indian students.