UNCF Career Pathways Initiative (CPI) 2015

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Career Pathways




The UNCF Career Pathways Initiative (CPI) is a new program funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. with the goal of helping four-year Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) strengthen institutional career placement outcomes by increasing the number of undergraduates who immediately transition to meaningful jobs in their chosen fields.

Through this initiative, UNCF will manage a competitive grant-making process to award planning and implementation grants so participating institutions can help students achieve a greater return on their investment in the form of meaningful employment immediately after graduation. 

Planning grants will be awarded in three levels based on undergraduate enrollment:

Planning Grants

Undergraduate Enrollment


(1,249 undergraduates and below)


(1,250 to 2,499 undergraduates)


(2,500 undergraduates and above)

Implementation grants will be awarded to a subset of planning grant awardees based on the same enrollment categories.


American college students and their families increasingly approach college attendance with a focus on securing a good job. The onset of the Great Recession heightened this perspective, prompting a greater pursuit of higher education by young and old alike to set themselves apart in a crowded job market. This was especially pronounced in the black community, where the recession hit hardest: when the national unemployment rate climbed to 10 percent, black unemployment exceeded 16 percent; the median net worth of black households fell to $4,900 compared with $97,000 for white households; and as recently as 2013, the unemployment rate for college-educated blacks between 22 and 27 years old was 12.4 percent compared with 5.6 percent for whites in that age group.[1] Even more striking, a 2014 report released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the proportion of young black college graduates who are underemployed spiked to 56 percent since 2007.[2] This data is exacerbated by repeated pronouncements from employers that recent college graduates are often not prepared for the work placed before them in their initial jobs. 

Greater connective tissue is needed between what students learn in the classroom and their preparation for a real-world career. Employers are increasingly frustrated with the lack of work preparation that students receive while taking classes. Institutions must explore multiple pathways toward workforce preparation that go beyond the standard training associated with typical majors.

To meet the needs of the country’s 21st-century workforce, black Americans must gain greater college access and graduate in larger numbers and also more quickly and fully transition into the world of meaningful work. Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly black institutions (PBIs) have contributed significantly on these fronts and will continue to do so given their enrollment patterns and outcomes. The CPI will fund HBCUs and PBIs to strengthen their institutional career placement outcomes which will increase the number of graduates who immediately transition into meaningful jobs.

[1] Mishel, L., Bivens, J., Gould, E., & Shierholz, H. (2012). The state of working America. 12th ed. New York: Cornell University Press. http://stateofworkingamerica.org/fact-sheets/african-americans/The recession of 2007–2009. [2012]. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2012/recession/pdf/recession_bls_spotlight.pdf

[2] Jones, J. & Schmitt, J. (2014). A college degree is no guarantee. Center for Economic and Policy Research: Washington, DC.


This competitive grant-making process will be by invitation only.  To receive an invitation, institutions must be a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) or a Predominantly Black Institution (PBI) that meet the following eligibility criteria: 

 Historically Black Colleges and Universities

* Four-year institutions

* Primarily serving undergraduates

* Accredited by one of the six regional accrediting bodies

* Award the majority of their degrees at the bachelor’s level


Predominantly Black Institutions

* Four-year institutions

* Must have met the Department of Education PBI regulatory guidelines for three of the previous four years

* Be primarily undergraduate serving

* Accredited by one of the six regional accrediting bodies

* Award at least 50% of their undergraduate degrees at the bachelor’s level


The following timeline will guide CPI activities over the coming year:

Letter of Interest

December 2, 2015              Letter of Interest announced to all eligible institutions

December 9, 2015              Technical Assistance Webinar (Session will be recorded)

January 7, 2016                 Technical Assistance Webinar (Session will be recorded)

January 19, 2016                Letter of Interest due by 5:00 PM EST

February 1, 2016                LOI awardees announced/Planning Grant RFP released 

Planning Grant

The Planning Grant RFP Process and the Planning Grant Phase will run from February 2016 through October 2016.  More information regarding this timeline will be made available on February 1, 2016.   

Implementation Grant

The Implementation Grant RFP Process and the Implementation Grant Phase will run from October 2016 through October 2022.  More information regarding this timeline will be made available in September 2016.  


CPI Program Director

UNCF Career Pathways Initiative

UNCF | 229 Peachtree Street, N.E., Suite 2350, Atlanta, GA  30303

(404) 302-8601 | CPIDirector@uncf.org

  * If you are a student inquiring about Scholarship opportunities, please email scholarships@uncf.org.

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