Millions of Dollars in Aid to HBCUs Held Up in Congress - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

The U.S. Senate has failed to approve Title III educational funding, which will put millions of dollars at risk for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

On Sept. 30, a federal law benefiting HBCUs and other minority-servicing institutions expired. This law provided more than $250 million a year in annual funding. The re-authorization of the funding passed the House unanimously earlier this year, but Senate Republications only want to address the funding as part of a larger bill called the Higher Education Act, which focuses on making college more affordable.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who is chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, calls the current extension “a shortcut” and says it “has no way to pass the Senate.” Alexander would like the Democrats to support his proposal, which would, in addition to funding the HBCUs, increase Pell Grants and simplify the federal student aid form also known as FAFSA.

Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington State and ranking member on the committee, has been negotiating with Alexander on this funding for years.

“I’ve been clear from the start that we need to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in a comprehensive way that addresses affordability, accountability, accessibility, and campus safety,” Murray told U.S. News. “I think we can get that done and I’m hopeful Chairman Alexander will keep working with me toward that goal.”

“In the meantime, the Senate must pass the bipartisan extension of funding for minority-serving institutions without delay,” Murray said. “If Senate Republicans continue to play partisan games, these historic colleges and universities could face a significant budget shortfall that would lead to irreparable harm.”

Aminta H. Breaux, the president of Bowie State University, accompanied the U.S. Senators from Maryland to condemn the withholding of millions of dollars for HBCUs at a press conference, calling it “unfathomable.”

“Imagine trying to lead a business without knowing what budget you have,” Breaux said Wednesday in Washington. “It is unfathomable to think about our young men and women who are on our campuses aspiring to achieve their goals and contribute back to our communities, and not supporting them in that endeavor.”