Google Announces HBCU Grants
Historically black colleges and universities, known by the initialism "HBCU," have a storied tradition of providing higher education for black American students. Though they also have a storied tradition of being entirely under-funded. As we found out in 2017, through leaked conversations from the White House, heads of HBCU groups would have to come to Congress every single year, pleading for more money. Every single year, HBCU representatives had to lobby in order to get federal support. Until former President Donald Trump gave them a ten-year funding plan to change the practice, that practice had been in place for decades. Though many still realize these institutions still do not have the funding available that many others have, and so Google is offering $50 million in grants to select HBCU institutions.
The $50 million in grants will be broken down, giving 10 HBCUs $5 million in funding each, which is aimed to help them keep professors on staff, modernize their campuses, and to develop curriculum. The stated goal of Google is to "close the gap" that's persistent in tech, where black Americans are the least likely to work in a field that deals in any sort of technology or software.
For many years now, it has been said that the reason black Americans are absent from tech is that historical racism still remains and acts as a barrier in academia and hiring practices today. However, to the extent that is at all the reason, it is hard to gain any traction on that, seeing as technology and software fields, especially at Google, are dominated by Indian immigrants who don't exactly fit the bill of "white people." Others claim that it's strictly a funding issue; that if only HBCUs had more funding, they could teach their students to be better prepared for tech. Well, for the discerning individual, they might bring India back up as a gauge, pointing out that even their best schools aren't as modern as the worst schools in America.
Though let us not get bogged down in political and socioeconomic discourse. The fact is that institutions like Google notice that there is a gap that persists in America, with black Americans making up an incredibly small minority of coders and engineers in these high-tech fields. Google is hoping that, at least for these ten universities, these gaps will start to shrink with some extra funding provided.
Throughout America, there are 107 HBCUs. While it is against federal law to discriminate against race, and so an HBCU would technically have to allow non-black people to enroll if they wanted to, most of these HBCUs are 100% black American. 51 are publicly funded institutions, while 56 are private. Google's grants seemed to be aimed entirely at private HBCUs, with the thought being that it's the government's responsibility to help fund the public institutions.
Unfortunately for students who attend these universities, HBCU science and technology programs are rated among the lowest not only in America but on the planet. And that's if the HBCU even offers these programs at all. Generally speaking, these institutions offer educations in social theories and liberal arts and aren't exactly known for their cutting-edge tech courses. Google is hoping that a needed cash injection may change this and in turn make these schools more competitive, so that they ultimately turn out students who are ready to compete in science and technology fields.
Google's Unpopular History with Minority Groups
Critics of Google claim that the tech juggernaut is merely doing this to remove some of the stink from their brand, where black Americans are concerned. Over the course of the past decade, Google has been involved in dozens of different complaints and lawsuits about their hiring practices discriminating against black Americans. It was even released through an official memo that Google flatly stated that black applicants just are not proficient enough at tech and coding to be hired on as employees when they apply for those positions. The few who do make the grade report a very hostile atmosphere at Google, with other employees assuming black employees are secretaries and janitors.
Needless to say, Google has an image issue that they would love to iron out. And there may be no better way to change these perceptions than to throw $50 million at the problem. Whether or not that's the reason is ultimately irrelevant to the fact that 10 HBCUs are receiving some much-needed funding.