Students at historically black colleges and universities in Texas receive a disproportionately lower amount of money from the state compared with Texas’ largest flagship institutions, despite enrolling more low-income and diverse students, according to a study.


The report released Tuesday by the the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning Austin think tank, compared Texas’ two public HBCUs — Prairie View A&M University and Texas Southern University — with the University of Texas and Texas A&M University. The center found that the two HBCUs receive about $2,500 less per student than UT and Texas A&M.


"HBCUs are doing great work investing in students and serving students from historically underrepresented backgrounds," said Ashley Williams, author of the study and a policy analyst at the center. "And the state could be doing more to help these institutions do just that."


In Texas, college funding is determined, in part by formulas. One such formula, regarding operations, calculates the number of credit hours an institution offers multiplied by a funding rate set by the state government.


Based on that formula and others, HBCUs received on average $10,506 per student from the Texas Legislature in 2019 while the flagships received about $12,958. Individually, the schools received the following state revenue per full-time student: Prairie View, $11,454; Texas A&M, $10,170; Texas Southern, $9,557; UT, $15,745.


A spokeswoman for the coordinating board said Prairie View, along with UT and A&M, receives additional excellence funding from the Permanent University Fund, which generates the money through the University Lands in West Texas. The state also provides Prairie View and Texas Southern with nonformula funding through the Academic Development Initiative. In the next biennium (2020-21) each will receive $25 million as part of a May 2000 agreement between Texas the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.


Laylan Copelin, a spokesman for the Texas A&M University System, said the study doesn’t account for funds the system allocates to Prairie View from its portion of the money generated by the Permanent University Funds. The system allocates more of those monies per student to Prairie View than the flagship Texas A&M University campus, according to the system.


Williams points out that Texas’ public HBCUs enroll a greater number of low-income students than UT or Texas A&M. In 2019, between 63% and 66% of students at Texas HBCUs had financial need, compared with 23% and 22% at UT and Texas A&M, respectively.


"Increased state investment in HBCUs would directly translate to increased investment in low-income and historically underrepresented students who make up an ever-increasing majority of Texas students and represent the future of our workforce," Williams writes. "Still, lawmakers fail to prioritize HBCUs in funding decisions."


Furthermore, Prairie View and Texas Southern use proportionally more of their funds on student services and scholarships than the big universities, according to the report. An average of 18.5% of total funds was spent on student services at HBCUs in 2019, while 10% of total funds for UT and Texas A&M went to such services.


"As more first-generation college students and more students from low-income backgrounds enter higher education, colleges will need more resources to provide those students with the necessary supports to ensure they can be as successful as their peers who have had lifelong access to increased resources," Williams writes.


In fall 2018, African American students represented about 4.8% of all students enrolled at UT, 3.4% of students at Texas A&M, 84.5% of students at Prairie View and 78.6% of students at Texas Southern. Although HBCUs specifically have a lack of funding, higher education money in general has been hard to come by in recent years in Texas. A study released in October found tuition costs in the state have significantly grown as the Legislature has divested from universities.


"As we are having conversations about how we may change formulas, maybe there are chances to think about how, in an equitable way, we will give more resources to students that need help," Williams said.