The Senate on Thursday approved a bipartisan amendment to restore millions of dollars in federal funding to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). Known as the FUTURE Act, the bill proposes a 10-year mandatory extension of $255 million in annual funding to HBCUs. It continues Title III funding for HBCUs and MSIs under the Higher Education Act of 1965, which previously expired at the end of September.
To offset costs for the bill, lawmakers would simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) financial aid application and loan repayment processes. In turn, this would save an estimated $2.8 billion. If passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and signed by President Trump, the bill would also allow for direct data sharing between the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Education.
According to a press release:
The bill amends both the Internal Revenue Code and the Higher Education Act to keep applicant information more secure by allowing for the direct importing of IRS tax data to the FAFSA. Direct data sharing would also streamline enrollment in and renewal of income-driven repayment (IDR) plans for borrowers by removing the need for students to self-certify their income to prove eligibility for federal IDR plans. This safeguards the integrity of the federal student aid programs without creating overly burdensome bureaucratic barriers for students who rely on these programs. The bill also takes meaningful steps to reduce verification burden, a process that remains overly complex, disproportionately affects low-income students, and is burdensome for students and aid administrators.
The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) president & CEO Harry L. Williams praised elected officials for approving the bill and encouraged the House of Representatives to pass it as well without delay. “TMCF is appreciative of all of the Senators who came together, in a bipartisan way, to reaffirm the importance of and work to renew this material investment in our Nation’s post-secondary students,” he said in a press release.
Likewise, Dr. Austin A. Lane, president of Texas Southern University said, “The bipartisan support of this bill is clear validation of the value that HBCUs like Texas Southern University brings to so many first-generation college students. Thanks to the lawmakers involved, as well as the tireless support from Dr. Harry Williams and the TMCF, the passage of this bill, will help thousands of more students reach their goals – and without the financial barriers that so often get in the way.”