When Congress reached a compromise on the infrastructure bill this summer, historically Black college and university advocates were struck by the absence of President Biden’s proposals to support the schools.
Gone was any mention of money for research incubators, laboratory upgrades or repairing aging facilities produced by decades of state and federal underfunding. But the White House assured Black colleges that the ambitious agenda Biden set for their schools would be part of a larger legislative package.
As lawmakers released pieces of that package this week, HBCU advocates learned that much of the proposed investments in the sector were either jettisoned or scaled back. And what remains would require Black colleges with limited resources to compete with well-heeled institutions for grant funding.
“We are struck by the contrast between the vision laid out by the president and the actual application that we see in Congress,” said Lodriguez Murray, senior vice president for public policy and government affairs at the United Negro College Fund. “It buoys us to work like heck to make sure that the students and institutions we serve remain at the table and are an active part of this build back better agenda.”
The House Education Committee crafted a sprawling bill that makes good on key tenets of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan, including universal community college and universal preschool. The bill would cover two years of tuition for many students attending historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and other minority-serving institutions.
Yet lawmakers dialed back funding for those schools designed to better serve students. Biden proposed a total of $55 billion for HBCUs and MSIs to upgrade research infrastructure and create up to 200 research incubators to bolster STEM education. House Democrats, however, are only setting aside $2 billion in grant funding that higher education leaders say would place many HBCUs at a disadvantage.
While the bill bars schools that engage in high levels of research activity from competing for the grant, it still affords minority-serving institutions with far more resources than most HBCU a chance at an award.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel