Obama Signs Order Boosting HBCU Funding

Investment guarantees students access to low-cost federal loans

President Barack Obama signs the HBCU executive order. (Source: White House)

President Barack Obama signed the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities on Friday afternoon, proposing $98 million in new money for these historic institutions for the 2011 fiscal year.

“Education reform has been a top priority of my administration,” said Obama. “We’re not only doing this because these schools are a gateway to a better future for African Americans; we’re doing it because their success is vital to a better future for all Americans.”

The executive order includes a 5%, or $13 million, increase for the Strengthening HBCUs Program and support for the $85 million in mandatory funding for HBCUs in the pending Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. The president’s budget would increase the Federal Pell Grant program from $18.2 billion in the 2008-2009 award year to a proposed $34.8 billion in 2011-2012. For HBCUs this means an increase of about $400 million in Pell Grants since the start of the Obama administration.

The budget also includes $20.5 million to provide HBCUs with access to financing for the repair, renovation, and construction or acquisition of educational facilities, instructional equipment, research instrumentation, and physical infrastructure. This funding will support $279 million in new loans in 2011, more than $100 million more than in 2010. The Strengthening Historically Black Graduate Institution program would receive $3.1 million, a 5% increase from previous years.

The nearly $100 million proposed is in line with Obama and his administration’s efforts to increase the number and percentage of college-trained Americans within the next 10 years.

“In order for our country to achieve the president’s 2020 goal of doubling college graduation rates, we must direct targeted resources to HBCUs and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs),” says Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund. “The changing demographics of our nation require a renewed focus on HBCUs and the students they serve.”

This initiative originated during President Jimmy Carter’s administration in 1980 to strengthen and expand the capacity of historically black colleges and universities to provide quality education for African Americans. It 1981 it expanded into a government wide effort under the Regan administration. It has been renewed by each president since.

Dr. William R. Harvey, president of Hampton University, will serve as chairman of the Presidential Advisory Board on HBCUs. In that role he will advise the president and the secretary of education on methods, programs, and strategies to strengthen HBCUs.

“I applaud President Obama for his vision and emphasis on the role that Historically Black Colleges and Universities play in this country,” stated Harvey.” I look forward to serving his administration and working with other members of the advisory board to advance the cause of education, research and public service.”

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