New Study by Tyson, Haile, and The MayaTech Corporation Highlights HBCU Barriers to USAID Funding

Media Contact:
Ashlei Stevens


Limited Knowledge of and Fiscal Capacity at HBCUs Prevents Access to Federal USAID Funding

New Study by Tyson, Haile, and The MayaTech Corporation Highlights HBCU Barriers to USAID Funding


Silver Spring, MD (April 1, 2021) - A new report funded by USAID under the framework of the Research Technical Assistance Center (RTAC) in Washington, DC examines the "Current Landscape of Engagement Between USAID and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)." The study was conducted by Shanelle Haile and Dr. Pearline Tyson, in collaboration with The MayaTech Corporation. Researchers examined the barriers that limit USAID funding to HBCUs and explored internationalization efforts HBCUs have undertaken to enhance their eligibility for USAID funding. The goal of the report is to strengthen the partnership between USAID and HBCUs and assess the partnerships HBCUs have established with governmental and nongovernmental entities around the globe.

"We have known for some time that there is tremendous diversity among HBCUs in terms of their academic and disciplinary foci, capacity to conduct research and implement programming—internationally or domestically—or collaborate with other institutions that have greater capacity," said Dr. Suzanne Randolph Cunningham, Chief Science Officer at MayaTech, who contributed to the survey design and analysis. "This report shines a light on that diversity and presents recommendations to address the inequities that, if eliminated, would set the stage for fuller participation by HBCUs of all types in USAID's mission-oriented programming."

Of the nation’s 101 HBCUs, 58 institutions participated in this study via surveys, interviews, or both. Additionally, a dozen informational interviews were conducted with USAID staff. Researchers uncovered barriers presented by HBCUs including capacity (fiscal/structural), knowledge of USAID programs, international experience, and networks. For USAID, barriers include lack of knowledge about, limited outreach to, and a low number of applications from HBCUs.

"By having honest conversations with HBCUs and USAID staff about their barriers, we realized that both parties really wanted to work together but couldn’t figure out the best way to engage each other,” said Dr. Tyson. “I’m hopeful that this research can bridge that gap for the agency and HBCUs that want to engage with the agency."

USAID has given $7.8 million to HBCUs between FY 2014 and FY 2020, the report found. This is a fraction of the amount HBCUs are awarded from other federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services ($175,227,288 in 2014) and the Department of Education ($150 million annually). Recommended solutions to address the USAID barriers include increasing communications and outreach via brown-bag sessions and conferences, setting short- and long-term goals for HBCU engagement, and targeting solicitations to HBCUs.

Haile, Tyson, and Randolph Cunningham are all graduates of HBCUs including Spelman College, Howard University, Morgan State University, and Xavier University of Louisiana. While their work on this report for USAID has concluded, the research team is interested to see a similar analysis and strategies designed for other federal agencies.

"These studies can be a pathway towards creating a culture of equity in how agencies fund minority-serving institutions and organizations," said Haile..


About RTAC: Research Technical Assistance Center is a global network of more than 900 university researchers, operating in more than 70 countries. RTAC provides USAID Missions, Bureaus, and Independent Offices (M/B/IOs) with short-term technical assistance to assist them in making evidence-based decisions on a range of topics and challenges. Shanelle Haile and Dr. Pearline Tyson are RTAC members. If you are an academic researcher, RTAC encourages you to apply to join their growing network.

About MayaTech: Since 1985, The MayaTech Corporation has focused on tackling existing and emerging public health challenges through direct engagement with agencies, governments, communities, and individuals. We provide a suite of research, training, evaluation, capacity-building, and other strategic support services aimed at reaching and impacting vulnerable populations, amplifying best practices, and innovating the practice of public health. Learn more at and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.