By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Refuting the misinformation that’s promulgated over social media and in Republican circles, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have released a fact sheet proving that the administration remains committed to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Particularly irritating to the administration was an Associated Press report that President Biden cut funding to HBCUs from $45 billion to $2 billion.
Pastor Jamal Bryant falsely claimed that the administration sought to defund HBCUs. He later retracted those comments.
“In the face of discrimination against Black Americans by many institutions of higher education, HBCUs fostered academic excellence and created pathways to opportunity for Black students throughout our Nation,” administration officials wrote in a fact sheet.
“HBCUs vary in size and academic focus and serve a range of diverse students and communities in urban, rural, and suburban settings. HBCU graduates are leaders in every field and include barrier-breaking public servants, scientists, artists, lawyers, engineers, educators, and business owners,” the officials noted.
There are several HBCU graduates serving in senior roles in the Biden-Harris Administration, including Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, and Vice President Kamala Harris – the first HBCU graduate ever to serve as Vice President of the United States.
“Despite this record of success, disparities in resources and opportunities for HBCUs and their students persist, and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted continuing and new challenges for HBCUs,” the administration wrote.
“To promote our shared prosperity and advance equity for all Americans, the Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized and delivered historic levels of investment in and support for HCBUs.”
According to the fact sheet, those actions include:
Historic Investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
American Rescue Plan. The American Rescue Plan provided over $4 billion in relief funding to HBCUs, including approximately $1.6 billion in debt relief to 45 HBCUs (13 public institutions and 32 private institutions) earlier this year.
FY 21 Grant Funding.
In FY21, the Department of Education awarded a total of $1 billion to build the capacity of institutions that serve large numbers of students of color and low-income students. $500 million of this funding went directly to HBCUs.
FY 22 Budget Request.
The President’s FY22 budget requests a total of $887 million for HBCU-specific funding in Higher Education Act (HEA) Title III funds—an increase of $247 million over last year’s level.
This would triple the mandatory Title III funding at the Department of Education— for a total of $252 million. Title III mandatory funds provide formula grants to all HBCUs to invest in capacity-building initiatives and student success programs.
The President’s budget request includes funding for research opportunities at HBCUs, labs, IT infrastructure, workforce development programs in STEM, and DOJ funding for Violence Against Women Act programs at HBCUs, among other priorities.
Teacher Quality Funding. Through the FY22 budget request and the Build Back Better plan, President Biden has proposed $60 million for the Augustus Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program to support teacher preparation programs at HBCUs and minority-serving institutions (MSIs).
Strengthening the White House Initiative on HBCUs
In September, President Biden signed an Executive Order to re-establish the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs and issued a proclamation recognizing National HBCU Week.
The President’s Executive Order calls for a whole of government approach to support HBCUs in responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and bolster HBCUs in a number of ways, including by breaking down barriers and improving access to Federal funding and other programs, particularly in areas of research and development.
The Order specifically directs senior officials in the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President to consult and collaborate with the Initiative on policy priorities for HBCUs.
Federal agencies must submit plans by February 1st of each year to describe how they are increasing HBCU access to Federal programs and improving Federal recruitment activities at HBCUs to build pathways to Federal employment.
During HBCU week, President Biden also named Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University, as Chair of the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs. The Board, originally established by the Carter Administration, is meant to engage key stakeholders in fields such as education, business, and philanthropy to advance the goals of the HBCU Initiative.
Ensuring Continued Support for HBCUs through the Build Back Better Plan
The President’s Build Back Better plan would provide tuition subsidies to students who attend HBCUs with a family income below $125,000.
It would also provide free community college to students who attend one of the 11 HBCUs that are also community colleges.
Build Back Better also includes a $5 billion increase in funding for HEA Title III and Title V, which can be used by HBCUs, Tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), and MSIs to strengthen their academic, administrative, and fiscal capabilities, including by creating or expanding educational programs in high-demand fields (e.g., STEM, computer sciences, nursing, and allied health).
Build Back Better would direct an additional $2 billion toward building a pipeline of skilled health care workers with graduate degrees from HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs.