HBCU’s post-shutdown returns bring much-needed increases to revenue
By Arriana McLymore
HAMPTON, VA (Reuters) – U.S. colleges and universities are celebrating their first post-pandemic homecomings, annual events when graduates return to celebrate years gone by and cheer on their alma mater football teams.
For historically black institutions, many of which were founded after the Civil War to educate newly liberated Americans barred due to racism from studying at other American institutions, the homecoming restart provides a much-needed economic boost. to universities and their surroundings.
With inflation falling, American shoppers are slowly starting to purchase food, clothing and leisure goods. Consumer spending rose 0.6% in September, according to the US Department of Commerce.
“I didn’t go (to the reunion) last year, which is a first,” said Samiria Percival, a graduate of Prairie View A&M University in Texas. This year, she tripled her budget to $1,500 from 2019 after spending on flights, hotels and the “return” or cost of libations, clothing and parties.
While homecomings aren’t exclusive to HBCUs, the reduction in such events during the pandemic has hit schools that are already underfunded and financially challenged compared to predominantly white institutions.
Lincoln College in Illinois permanently closed in May, citing pandemic impacts, low enrollment and a cyberattack. During the same month, Morris Brown in Atlanta regained his accreditation, which had been revoked due to debts and mismanagement.
Universities canceled sporting events in 2019 due to the pandemic and held virtual and hybrid parties in 2021. In returns home this year, universities are increasing fees such as those charged to suppliers to combat the inflation and recoup some losses from the pandemic.
Colleges and universities aren’t the only ones feeling the economic impacts of post-pandemic returns. Local restaurants, party venues and hotels are also recouping the annual increase in revenue.
“There’s like a $2.5 million economic impact coming into the city (of Durham) with all the events that we have,” the chief financial officer of Central North Carolina University told Reuters. Akua Matherson.
She expects the economic impact to be greater this year as hotels and event venues in Durham reach booking capacity.
Tiffany Rose, an event planner who is throwing a homecoming homecoming party at Howard University, said she had to raise ticket prices from $35 to $50 due to increased venue costs, but had seen an increase in sales of at least 200 people.
Vendor fees and tailgate seats have increased by at least $25 this year — a price that can quickly add up for traders and visitors who attend multiple homecomings.
Clark University in Atlanta has increased its selling fee by $25 since 2019.
Howard University in Washington, DC, doubled its 2018 selling fee to $550 for early entrants and $750 for late entrants, according to documents on the university’s website.
North Carolina Central University raised its fees by $50 this year from 2021, to $500 for food vendors and $400 for general merchandise vendors, due to higher inflation, according to documents.
Philip Garner, who runs arts and clothing company Dope Rebellion, said paying the increased costs was worth it. He sold over 300 shirts on his first bazaar day back at Hampton University, generating over $7,500 in sales. Garner drove three hours to his home state of Maryland to print more merchandise and returned to college the next morning for more sales.
“I was exhausted but, you know, that’s normally my best selling weekend,” Garner said. Now he is preparing for the return home from Grambling University in Louisiana.
(Reporting by Arriana McLymore; Editing by Donna Bryson and Mark Porter)