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Black institutions and holistic coaching unite to fuel student success

In celebration of Black History Month, we want to spotlight the critical leadership role Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) play in advancing educational, social and economic progress for Black students and their families.

When Carter G. Woodsen founded what was then called Negro History Week in 1926, a grassroots network of Black educators used this week to lift up individuals. They also taught students about racial progress and created curriculum and assignments to provide students with the tools they needed to succeed. HBCUs emerged as a haven for activists, artists, educators, business owners and scientists. And students at HBCUs have been at the forefront of social justice movements — including the Civil Rights Movement — since the nineteenth century to today.

As a nonprofit with a mission to close equity gaps and fuel social mobility, InsideTrack focuses primarily on historically underrepresented traditional and adult students — including first-generation, BIPOC and low-income learners. The common denominator for these learners is that they often face barriers to postsecondary access and success. Our mission is to help them overcome those barriers and achieve their goals. Black student success is crucial in our vision for social and economic equity — and a cornerstone of our growing partnership with HBCUs and PBIs.

A proud history of fueling student success

Even though HBCUs make up just 3% of the nation’s colleges and universities, they enroll 10% of all African American students and produce almost 20% of all African American graduates. What’s more, 25% of African American graduates with STEM degrees come from HBCUs. And over the course of their lifetime, the average HBCU graduate can expect to earn an additional $927,000 — 56% more than they would have earned without their HBCU degrees or certificates.

Yet these statistics, while impressive, only tell part of the HBCU story. Belonging, acceptance and inclusion are core strengths of HBCUs. These proud and storied institutions are rooted in faith, community and service. While HBCUs provide a stable and nurturing environment for all students, they are especially adept at supporting low-income, first-generation college students — the students most at risk of either not entering college at all or not completing their degree. Many of these students are academically underprepared for college, yet they’re precisely the students the country needs to obtain college degrees.

Which brings us back to our mission at InsideTrack — providing coaching that empowers and advances all learners. Since 2021, InsideTrack has been fortunate enough to partner with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), a leading advocate for the importance of minority education and community engagement. Working in tandem with UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building, our partnership began with a highly successful re-enrollment pilot program to help get nearly 400 students back to school. We are now working together on various long-term programs to provide additional HBCU and PBI support. These programs include direct student coaching and capacity building, where student support staff at UNCF member institutions are trained to use our research-proven methodology to become coaches themselves, further expanding their student support.

Partnering for student and institutional advancement

Since their founding in 1944, UNCF has been the nation’s leading advocate for the importance of minority education and community engagement, enabling more than 500,000 students (and counting) to earn their college degrees. Each year, UNCF awards more than 10,000 scholarships worth more than $100 million and provides financial support to 37 HBCUs. Their impact is both widespread and lasting. The six-year graduation rate for UNCF African American scholarship recipients is 70% — 11% higher than the national average for all students, and 31% higher than the national average for all African American students.

In 2006, the organization created the Institute for Capacity Building (ICB) to provide targeted capacity-building resources to help Black colleges and universities across the country improve admission, retention and graduation rates. As the first step in a long-term partnership, InsideTrack worked with the ICB to provide deep-rooted, wraparound support to help institutions holistically address capacity changes. This included a re-enrollment pilot program to bring student success best practices to UNCF member colleges and universities as part of their networked approach.

The pilot program worked to proactively re-engage and reconnect students who had stopped out from a select cohort of nine HBCUs and PBIs. It also served as a first step in what has become a multi-year, multi-campus networked partnership designed to support the students who need it most — and propel them forward. One of those schools was Wiley College.

In our recent in-depth UNCF case study, you can learn more about this initial re-enrollment campaign, as well as find out about plans to incorporate retention coaching and capacity building to build long-term success and help even more HBCU students achieve their educational goals.

Additional partnership extends student support efforts to more HBCUs

Just recently, InsideTrack has also joined forces with fellow nonprofit Partnership for Education Advancement, an organization committed to ensuring that more students of color, first-generation, and low-income students earn a college degree. InsideTrack will soon provide re-enrollment and retention coaching for first-year students and capacity building to ten HBCU campuses. All designed to provide additional support to thousands of additional HBCU students on their collegiate journeys.

Today, InsideTrack partners with nearly 50 HBCUs and PBIs, helping to not only improve student enrollment, retention and completion, but also to sustainably build capacity. This will ensure that institution staff are fully trained in our coaching methodology, allowing them to continue making a positive impact on student success well after our partnership ends.

Check out our latest webinar, HBCUs Unlock the Power of Coaching: Accelerating Student Belonging and Success. You can watch an on-demand recording featuring leaders from United Negro College Fund, Partnership for Education Advancement and InsideTrack. It’s an hour of actionable insights you won’t want to miss.

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Whether you’re looking to help students persist through completion or to improve career outcomes for job seekers and employees, our holistic coaching solutions can help you achieve meaningful outcomes.