Small Business Administration:

Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Engagement with Historically Black Colleges and Universities

GAO-20-41: Published: Nov 13, 2019. Publicly Released: Dec 13, 2019.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Anna Maria Ortiz
(202) 512-8678
OrtizA@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) educated more than 226,000 African-American students pursuing a college degree in 2017.

Among other things, the Small Business Administration works with colleges and universities to provide entrepreneurial training and counseling for students and adjacent communities. We looked at how SBA has worked with HBCUs.

SBA’s efforts included providing training and counseling through its Small Business Development Center program, with centers on at least 16 HBCU campuses. We made 3 recommendations, including that SBA collect additional information to measure the effectiveness of its efforts.

States with Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Map showing states with historically black colleges and universities

Map showing states with historically black colleges and universities

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Anna Maria Ortiz
(202) 512-8678
OrtizA@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

The Small Business Administration (SBA) worked with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to foster entrepreneurship, primarily through its Small Business Development Center program (which provides counseling and training), strategic alliance memorandums, and co-sponsorship agreements. Two HBCUs—Howard University and the University of the Virgin Islands—have hosted SBDC “lead centers” since the 1980s. SBA also signed at least 35 strategic alliance memorandums with HBCUs and at least 16 co-sponsorship agreements in 2013–2018.

States with Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Highlights v3-102831-jys

In 2018, SBA developed a plan to support HBCUs (including goals and measures) for the White House Initiative on HBCUs. However, SBA headquarters did not communicate this plan or its goals to key Small Business Development Centers or SBA district offices (those with HBCUs in their service areas). As a result, SBA may have missed opportunities to collaborate with HBCUs and help achieve the goals of its plan.

SBA has collected limited information about its programs and activities with HBCUs. SBA could not establish a baseline for performance measures developed in its 2018 plan because SBA district offices and the Small Business Development Centers are not required to collect or report information about their HBCU-related outreach and other activities. For example, while representatives from the nine Small Business Development Centers with whom GAO spoke said they conducted outreach to HBCUs, this information was not reported to SBA headquarters. Without collecting relevant information about its HBCU-related efforts, including data for performance measures, SBA cannot assess the extent or effectiveness of its efforts to support HBCUs.

Why GAO Did This Study

The 101 HBCUs play an important role in higher education and in their local and regional economies. Among African Americans who obtained a doctorate in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics in 2005–2010, more than one-third earned their undergraduate degrees from an HBCU. SBA is part of a long-standing White House initiative to strengthen the capacity of HBCUs, including their ability to access and participate in federal programs. SBA's mission includes business development, and SBA also works with colleges and universities to provide entrepreneurial training and counseling.

GAO was asked to review SBA's entrepreneurship-related efforts with HBCUs. This report examines (1) SBA efforts to foster entrepreneurship with HBCUs in recent years, (2) SBA's plans for the White House Initiative on HBCUs, and (3) the extent to which SBA collected information specific to HBCUs. GAO analyzed SBA information on HBCU participation in programs and activities for fostering entrepreneurship and reviewed related standard operating procedures. GAO also interviewed officials at SBA headquarters and eight SBA district offices, and representatives of nine Small Business Development Centers (selected for a high number of agreements with HBCUs and other factors).

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making three recommendations, including that SBA communicate planned efforts to support HBCUs to key Small Business Development Centers or district offices, and collect additional information on its efforts to support HBCUs. SBA agreed with GAO's recommendations.

For more information, contact Anna Maria Ortiz at (202) 512-8678 or OrtizA@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The SBA Administrator should assign and document clear roles, responsibilities, and reporting lines for headquarters offices' implementation of SBA's plan for addressing the White House Initiative on HBCUs in a timely manner. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Associate Administrator of the Office of Entrepreneurial Development should take and document steps to ensure that the office's reporting mechanisms collect the information needed to establish a baseline for, and also inform future monitoring and assessment of, efforts to support HBCUs. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Associate Administrators of the Office of Entrepreneurial Development and Office of Field Operations should communicate planned efforts to support HBCUs, including expectations, goals, and related measures, to the district offices and Small Business Development Centers with HBCUs in their service areas. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Jul 30, 2020

Jun 29, 2020

Jun 22, 2020

Apr 27, 2020

  • business icon, source: Photodisc

    Priority Open Recommendations:

    Department of Commerce
    GAO-20-497PR: Published: Apr 20, 2020. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 2020.

Nov 19, 2019

Oct 22, 2019

Sep 26, 2019

Jul 16, 2019

Jun 12, 2019

Jun 11, 2019

Looking for more? Browse all our products here