Due to Democratic infighting, HBCUs who were expecting $45 million as part of President Joe Biden’s spending package may only receive $5 billion.
In Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget, $45 billion was earmarked out for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). However, in the most recent version of the bill, only $2 billion was set up for educational programs and HBCUs. Worse, instead of providing direct support to schools, the funding could be converted into competitive grant financing.
The $1.45 billion in aid, which will be distributed between 2022 and 2026, is significantly less than HBCUs expected, putting Biden at odds with the organization that helped push him to the White House.
Inside HigherEd spoke with Paul Jones, president of Fort Valley State University and vice-chair of the Council of 1890 Presidents. “The number is really much fewer than what we had anticipated for,” he said.
“It’s really sort of lumping us all into this one sector, along with minority-serving schools and Hispanic-serving institutions, when we all have great needs.”
For decades, HBCUs have been underfunded because of systemic racism and the federal government’s aversion to assisting them. Mackenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, donated millions of dollars to HBCUs last summer. A slew of businesses, including those in the tech, banking, and retail industries, also contributed funds to HBCU programs and projects.
Several HBCUs have also filed lawsuits against the states in which they are located.
In 2006, Coppin State University, Bowie State University, Morgan State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Maryland, alleging discrimination and underfunding of historically black colleges and universities. After a decade of resistance, the state finally agreed to a $577 million settlement last April.
According to Roderick L. Smothers, president of Philander Smith College in Arkansas, government monies acquired during the coronavirus pandemic were critical in assisting the school in surviving the pandemic, as well as implementing technology enhancements and student support.
“We used the monies we received to serve the students we have,” Smothers said. “Now we’re asking for extra funds to ensure that when we get out of this worldwide epidemic, our institutions will be bigger, better, and more robust.”
Smothers noted that the government monies would have been used to enhance the school’s programming for children and to establish a public health school that would train students to address racial inequities in health.
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