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Report: Universities Offer New Cures for Closing Virginia’s Racial Gaps


Monday, August 30, 2021   

RICHMOND, Va. - In response to last year's protests against racial injustice across the country, a new report shows cities such as Richmond are turning to universities to help reconcile past racial disparities while helping underserved Black communities today.

The Brookings Institution report details historic wealth gaps between Black and White Virginians.

It includes uneven home ownership from redlining, leading to Blacks having less ability to pay for college - according to Andre Perry, co-author of the report and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program.

He said only 25% of African Americans in the state have a bachelor's degree compared with about 43% of Whites. But he said he thinks there's hope.

This year, Lumina Foundation gave Virginia more than $700,000 to help more Black residents attend college.

"That led to initiatives that would essentially expose individuals to college," said Perry, "provide them quality counseling so they know what coursework to take. They provided micro grants to help students cover expenses like car repair or child care."

The Lumina Foundation also partnered with Virginia Commonwealth University's Bridging Richmond initiative to help Richmond's Black residents get a post-secondary education.

Some university initiatives aim to counteract years of institutionalized practices that have created the wealth gaps. For example, the report finds the median annual income of Virginia's Black families is 30% lower than that of white families, and has been that way for the past 50 years.

Perry pointed out that Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is taking steps to mend that difference.

He recently announced a 20-year partnership between historically Black Virginia Union University and a city redevelopment group to provide adults and some students with workforce development and mentoring services.

"It's not enough for a university to essentially provide a service as if it was a bank where people will go in, get their education and leave," said Perry. "Not, it's about saying institutions have a responsibility, making sure the overall conditions are improved upon."

The report also recommends that universities leverage their institutional power as a large employer to audit internal hiring practices to make sure the jobs they create are accessible to a wider range of people.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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