Pipelines of opportunity should be available to all Americans. But for Black Americans, discrimination and historical injustice have created significant barriers to critical opportunity on-ramps like capital to start a business or access to the training and education needed to enter a lucrative field.
It’s harder for Black entrepreneurs to get the startup capital they need. They are more likely to rely on personal credit cards carrying balances than traditional bank loans, and when Black entrepreneurs do get a loan, they are more likely to be offered a smaller amount and pay higher interest rates. Additionally, Black Americans are saddled with much higher student debt burdens, which makes it harder to get financing to start a business. Nearly 40% of African American adults between the ages of 25 and 55 hold student debt, compared to 30% of whites and Latinxs.
We must also speak the truth about how Black Americans remain at a disadvantage in participating in our STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workforce. The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) reports, for example, that Black students studying engineering earned only 4.2% of bachelor’s degrees in 2012 across the United States. Of these, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) graduate nearly 1 in 4 Black Americans who earn science and engineering bachelor degrees. Yet, HBCUs remain historically under-resourced and some are even being forced to close. Of the U.S. institutions of higher education that have endowments of $1 billion or greater in 2018, none are HBCUs. A 2018 GAO report found that the size of the median HBCU endowment was about half the size of a similar institution that wasn’t an HBCU.
We have to reverse this trend. With access to proper resources, HBCUs and other MSIs can be hubs of activity for STEM research and learning which will create a virtuous circle, attracting other leading faculty, students, and research funding opportunities. And with proper resources, we can ensure that Black entrepreneurs have a real shot at starting small businesses and other ventures.
Here are the key points of Kamala’s plan:
- Kamala Harris will invest $60 billion in STEM education at HBCUs and other MSIs.
- Work with Congress to create a $12 billion capital grant and technical support program, which will go directly to helping minority small business owners start businesses.
- Make sure that Black entrepreneurs have a real shot at getting a federal contract awarded to their business.
- Reform Opportunity Zones and set new goals to make sure funds go to minority-owned small businesses, prioritize lowest-income neighborhoods, prioritize hiring in those neighborhoods, and have safeguards to ensure that housing projects that are built actually contain affordable units