Some Black Democrats are not here for the nearly $30 billion cut to HBCU funding in the latest version of President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. One of them has even threatened to vote against it if the issue is not resolved.
U.S. Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina is the co-chair of the HBCU Caucus. She along with fellow Democrat and HBCU graduate Sen. Dr. Raphael Warnock, the first Black man elected to represent the state of Georgia in the senate, have publicly objected to how drastically the proposed funding to historically Black colleges and universities was cut.
Initially, Biden proposed $55 billion in funding to HBCUs in his “Build Back Better” plan. However, when the bill went to Congress for reconciliation, it only allocated a total of $30.5 billion, BNC News reported.
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The new proposed funding includes $27 billion in tuition subsidies, $1.45 billion for institutional aid and $2 billion to improve research and development infrastructure. However, HBCUs will have to compete with other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) for the smaller pot of funding.
For Adams and Warnock, this was unacceptable. The duo sent a letter to their colleagues in Congress proposing a counter-compromise, which asked members to give back $15 billion of what was originally allocated, but no deal.
Adams was not having it and said she wouldn’t vote for the bill in its current form. “This is contrary to President Biden’s own goals for HBCU and MSI funding,” Adams wrote in the letter, according to Inside Higher Ed. “If this language as written becomes law, it is accurate to say that HBCUs will only successfully compete for pennies on the dollar.
“Transformative legislation that invests in the American people and helps us #BuildBackBetter must invest in our strongest engines of upward mobility: our #HBCUs,” Adams added in a tweet on Tuesday, Sept. 28. “Historically Black Colleges and Universities are having a moment – the time is NOW for Congress to meet that moment.”
HBCU presidents also oppose the HBCU funding cuts in the reconciliation bill. Members of the 1890 Universities – which is a foundation comprised of HBCUs designated as land-grant institutions by Congress – sent a letter decrying the funding cuts.
“Our universities have produced some of the nation’s greatest minds and the funding proposed would allow us to continue producing scholars,” the letter said. “We hope that we can count on your support of this request by adding significant funding for our institutions through the budget reconciliation process. Conversely, failure to include such investments would leave a significant gap as Congress and the Biden-Harris administration seek to rebuild our nation’s public infrastructure.”
Dr. George T. French Jr. is the president of Atlanta, Georgia-based HBCU Clark Atlanta University. He said HBCUs are in dire need of funding for infrastructure and research.
“We’re looking at institutions that. Have been in existence for 150, 160 years; my institution since 1865 so we have serious infrastructure needs first, and then we’re looking at research and development needs for the STEM disciplines so that we might help our country” French said.
Lodriguez Murray, senior vice president of the United Negro College Fund, echoed French’s sentiment saying HBCUs are the best at reaching students on the lower economic rungs of society and giving them hope for a brighter future.
“It’s not just Black students that are on the college campuses, but the thing you have to look at is the fact that these colleges are the best in the country at educating first-generation college students and they’re the best in the country at educating those that come from underserved backgrounds, economically disadvantaged backgrounds.” Murray said “So if you look at all types of colleges and universities, compare them to HBCUs educating those types of students, HBCUs win hands-down so that is the reason [for] the investment.”
According to French and Murray, it is an investment that has been denied for far too long. “The promises of the nation to our population overall” regarding federal funding has been left unfulfilled “forever,” French said. “When we look at this budget reconciliation it gives our nation the opportunity to make right the wrongs of decades, the wrongs of over 100 years,” French said.
Historically Black colleges and universities make an indelible impact on American society. … This is the time where if you’re going to build back better, you have to build back and you have build up institutions that have always been historically underfunded and disadvantaged and those are historically Black colleges and universities.,” Murray said.