Black colleges’ funding hopes dim amid federal budget battle

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The bill’s latest iteration includes only $2 billion toward HBCUs.

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Optimism for Transformational Financing for the Nation historically black college was running high after Biden Administration This includes a massive multi-billion dollar spending plan totaling $45 billion for schools.

That outlook quickly soured as the funding net came in democratic infighting On the size of the economic package and what should be included in it. The latest iteration of the bill only includes $2 billion that could go toward educational programs and infrastructure for Black colleges, and even that amount would be slashed to competing grant funding rather than outright allocations.

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This is particularly frustrating for the many smaller, private historically black colleges that do not have the same endowments as their larger and more well-known peers. They often struggle to upgrade their campuses and programs, which hurts their ability to attract students.

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of the Biden administration Original $3.5 trillion proposal Called Black colleges and other minority-serving institutions to send at least $45 billion to update their research programs, create incubators for students to innovate, and help traditionally underserved populations.

Getting a piece of that would have been a boon to Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas, a private historically black college. President Roderick L. Smarters said federal coronavirus relief funds were instrumental in helping the university survive the pandemic with technology upgrades and student aid, but added that Biden’s original proposal provided the kind of funding that would have had a long-term impact.

“We used the money we received to serve the students we have, and we are now seeking additional funding to ensure that our institutions are bigger and better and more resilient when we are on the other side of this global pandemic. will be,” said the mother.

The college increased its enrollment by 43% between 2010 and 2019, according to federal data analyzed by the Associated Press, the latest data available, but saw its endowments drop by 18% during the same time frame. Overall, enrollment at about 102 Black colleges in the country is declining – from 326,827 in 2010 to 289,507 in 2019.

Beyond building upgrades, Smurders said Philander Smith College will use long-term federal funding to expand programs for its students, 81% of whom are low-income. This could include starting a public health school that would train students to deal with health inequalities affecting racial minorities and help address the state’s nursing shortage.

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Democratic Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia, who leads the US House Education Committee, said historically black colleges have received unprecedented levels of federal funding over the past two years, more than in the past decade combined. . That includes $1.6 billion under the Democrats’ American Rescue Plan passed earlier this year.

The money has allowed them to take initiatives like canceling student loans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the draft bill also includes $27 billion for student aid at black colleges and other institutions that serve racial minorities. Still, he acknowledged the need for more money.

“We want to do as much as we can,” Scott said. “I am not satisfied. I am not satisfied with anything in the budget which is within our jurisdiction.”

Scott said the Department of Education is committed to ensuring that the grant program contained in the current bill will be structured so that similar colleges can compete with each other. This is a way of preventing large schools with strong grant-writing departments from being ousted from smaller schools.

It is important to bridge the vast gap between colleges. An Associated Press analysis of enrollment and endowment data found wide disparities between 102 historically black colleges and universities, and a further divide between private and public institutions. For example, federal data showed that 11 HBCUs had endowments of less than $1,000 per student in the 2018-19 school year, while nine had endowments of more than $50,000 per student.

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In general, Black colleges lack the fundraising capabilities of other universities. The cumulative endowment for all Historic Black colleges through 2019 was a little over $3.9 billion, roughly the same as the endowment for the University of Minnesota. Advocates said funding conflicts and the role colleges have historically played are why long-term federal aid is needed.

Williams, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which represents public HBCUs, was surprised and disappointed by the reduced allocation for black colleges in the latest Democratic economic plan, which will likely be trimmed to about $2 trillion. He also said that they should not be clubbed with other institutions serving racial minorities, which he said could include several large state universities.

Williams said black colleges have a unique history, needs and financial challenges.

Kevin Cosby, president of Simmons College of Kentucky in Louisville, agrees.

“Mixing them with minority-serving institutions that are not historical institutions that do not have a legacy of historical discrimination is not right,” he said. “Historically black colleges and universities should be segregated as a protected class of institutions because, like the black community, our experience in the United States is a unique one.”

Because of historical underfunding, Black colleges have often had years of deferred maintenance, taking buildings out of compliance with local codes or otherwise unable to accommodate students. Cosby said money from endowment returns is directed toward annual operating costs, making it harder to invest in new programs and buildings — the “number one issue” for attracting students.

Last spring, Kentucky’s general assembly passed long-awaited legislation making it possible for their school to have a certified teacher program. The initiative is particularly meaningful to Simmons because of the state’s persistent teacher shortage and the school’s founding mission as formerly enslaved Kentuckians trained as teachers. But Cosby said that not having long-term funding from the federal government would make it difficult for Simmons to get the program off the ground quickly.

“We need facility space, we need infrastructure, we need capital improvements, we need resources to hire teachers,” he said. “We can only develop as institutions to the extent that we have the resources.”


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