Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) leaders are waiting with bated breath on the passage of President Joe Biden‘s Build Back Better agenda as it includes record funding for the Black colleges.
Biden’s bill would provide $6 billion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs at HBCUs and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). Civil Rights and education advocates say the funding is paramount in order for HBCU to compete with top-tier research universities specializing in science and technology, such as M.I.T.
Thurgood Marshall College Fund president Harry Williams told NBC News that not one HBCU school has reached the level of a first-tier institution, schools that excel in research activities through doctoral programs. Tier 1 programs include Stanford, Harvard, Duke, and the University of Pennsylvania.
However, a dozen HBCUs are considered second-tier institutions and Williams said the funding could be a game-changer for HBCUs and MSIs looking to improve their STEM programs.
“The significance here is that there’s an opportunity for an HBCU to move into” the top echelon, and it requires this type of federal investment for that to happen,” he said. “We want to build on this to continue to demonstrate clearly this type of investment is only going to yield a positive outcome for the African American community.”
North Carolina A&T (N.C. A&T), the largest HBCU in America, has significant STEM and research projects, but faces a $100 million maintenance backlog. Passing the package would provide the funds needed to put N.C. A&T on a stronger financial foundation.
HBCUs represent 3% of colleges and universities in the U.S., however, they enroll 10% of all Black students in the country. Additionally, 24% of Black graduates with a bachelor’s degree from an HBCU, majored in a STEM field.