The Small but Mighty HBCUs Doing More With Less

Huston-Tillotson and Paul Quinn don’t pull in donations like Howard and Spelman, but that doesn’t stop them from investing in their students

Lisa Armstrong
Published in
8 min readSep 28, 2020


Photo via CollegeSimply

At Huston-Tillotson University, a small HBCU in Austin, Texas, Zahria Touchstone found a place where she could blossom. Touchstone, 20, was student body president at her high school in Waco, Texas, where she said she was one of the few Black students in her senior class. She says classmates and teachers saw her assertiveness as “coming off too strong,” and she wasn’t necessarily encouraged to excel. But, pushed by her father to find universities to attend, Touchstone stumbled across Huston-Tillotson.

She toured the school five times and quickly felt a sense of belonging.

“It wasn’t, ‘Oh, here’s what we can do for you,” Touchstone says, “but, ‘Hey, Zahria, who are you as this individual we’re welcoming into our family?’”

Touchstone is now a junior studying business administration with a concentration in entrepreneurship. The straight-A student says Huston-Tillotson allowed her to come into her own as a Black woman.

“Huston-Tillotson was just a place [where] I knew that I could be good. I could be passionate, and I would have people support me and be enthused by my passion and not look at it as anger or thinking that I’m cocky or rude,” Touchstone says. “Love has always been poured into me. There has never been a doubt in my mind where I felt like my professors or my administration didn’t love me.”

Huston-Tillotson is one of the lesser known of the 107 historically Black universities and colleges in the country, but for students like Touchstone, it provides opportunities and a level of attentiveness from professors and administrators that they don’t feel they’d get anywhere else.

Several HBCUs have recently made headlines as the result of large donations from notable figures. In June, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin, donated $120 million to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Spelman College, and Morehouse College. In July, MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, gave to several HBCUs, including $40 million to Howard, $30 million to…