Reinvestment Fund provided financing to Edward Waters College, Florida’s first Historically Black College or University (HBCU), transforming the College’s financial health and positioning it for long term financial stability.
Edward Waters College (EWC) is a private, non-profit HBCU in Jacksonville which, since its founding, has been affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. EWC was founded in 1866 as the first private educational institute of higher education in Florida. They remain one of four HBCUs in the country still affiliated with the AME Church.
EWC has played an indispensable role in providing higher educational opportunities to thousands of students of color, many of them first-generation college students. Accordingly, more than 75% of students at HBCUs (90% at EWC) rely on Pell Grants to meet their college expenses and HBCU graduates account for 40% of Black members of Congress, 12.5% of Black CEOs, 40% of Black engineers and 80% of Black judges1.
For the last two consecutive years EWC has been named as one of the nation’s “Top Ten Smaller HBCU’s On the Rise” by the HBCU Campaign Fund.
Unfortunately, historic disparities in investment due to federal and state policies2 as well as discrimination in lending practices3 continue to profoundly impact HBCUs’ access to resources compared to non- HBCUs. Institutional endowments at HBCU’s which serve as vital reservoirs of financial support for operational and student support in higher education typically lag far behind those of non-HBCUs by at least 70%. The largest portion of operating funds for HBCUs like EWC come from federal and state resources, which declined significantly between 2003 and 2015. Private HBCUs like EWC saw federal funding decline by 42% during that period. Accordingly, HBCUs face significant financial challenges when it comes to operations and capital infrastructure investment.
Reinvestment Fund’s financing supports the refinance of existing debts at more favorable rates, which increases EWC’s liquidity and positions the College to embark on a larger capital improvement campaign to upgrade its campus learning and living facilities. Capital for Reinvestment Fund’s financing comes from the CDFI Fund’s Bond Guarantee Program (BGP). The transaction with EWC is part of Reinvestment Fund growing effort to support the financial health of HBCUs. Reinvestment Fund’s portfolio includes partnerships with Fisk University and Talladega College.
EWC’s student body is 51% female and 60% Black, 19% White and 8% Hispanic. A significant number of students are first in their family college students and 100% of incoming freshman received some support (mostly institutional tuition discounts). Of the incoming freshman students, 244 or 88%, collectively receive $1.1M of Pell Grant aid and 191, 75% received $1.0M of Federal student loans.
EWC is leveraging a history of strong science education to invest in new forensic science programs that will enable graduates to connect to a significant job opportunity, as well as implementing an undergraduate nursing education program connected to existing regional nursing graduate programs.
The college campus is a historic anchor of the “New Town” neighborhood located in the heart of Jacksonville’s Black community. EWC is investing in its surrounding neighborhoods by transforming vacant and blighted properties to create new housing. EWC also makes its current and new facilities, including a sports stadium, available to the community and invests in a range of both physical and social services for surrounding neighborhoods.