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Striving for the ‘Gold Standard’

Striving for the ‘Gold Standard’


Sara Weissman
November 2, 2022
Leaders of historically Black colleges and universities have been working to achieve Research-1 status in recent years, the coveted Carnegie Foundation classification reserved for doctoral universities that demonstrate a certain level of research prowess. No HBCU currently holds such a classification, but administrators at some colleges say the designation feels increasingly attainable after years of striving and strategizing and a record year of securing research dollars.
Howard University, for example, raised a record $122 million in grants and contracts this fiscal year, outpacing its goal to reach $100 million by 2024. Howard officials say the institution is the first HBCU to reach that amount after attaining $66 million in 2020 and $91.3 million in research grants and contracts last year, breaking a decade-long streak of bringing in less than $60 million annually.
Meanwhile, North Carolina A&T State University earned $97.3 million in research awards, its second year of record research funding. More than $74 million in federal and state grants was also committed to Morgan State University, mostly for research purposes, in fiscal year 2022.
Willie E. May, vice president of research and economic development at Morgan State, suspects most HBCUs have gotten increases in research funding in the “post–George Floyd era” that led to widespread national discussions about racial inequities in American society, including in higher ed, and the historic role of HBCUs in educating underrepresented students.
This trend could move some institutions closer to the R-1 goalpost. The classification is based on the amount of money an institution spends on research, the number of research staff members employed and the number of doctoral degrees awarded across disciplines to assess the volume, intensity and breadth of the research an institution produces. To qualify for the R-1 or R-2 categories, which indicate “very high” or “high” research activity, respectively, institutions must have awarded at least 20 doctoral degrees and spent at least $5 million on research expenditures in a given year.
“R-1 is the gold standard for quality educational research,” May said. “We can better support the community, the region, our state, our nation and the world by having this merit badge.”
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