A financial lifeline worth billions to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) is at stake as the U.S. Senate considers President Biden’s proposed Build Back Better Act, a wide-ranging $2.2 trillion social spending package.
Biden’s plan would “make historic investments” in HBCUs and other higher-learning institutions that serve students of color, according to a statement from the White House.
A total of 65 HBCU presidents and chancellors sent an open letter on Tuesday (Nov. 30) to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling on them to pass the legislation.
The HBCU leaders pointed out that their institutions are pivotal at educating Black students, but they have been underfunded for many decades.
“For more than a century, America’s HBCUs have provided educational excellence and access for some of our most vulnerable populations. While constituting only 3 percent of all colleges and universities, we still graduate nearly 20 percent of all African American students and contribute nearly $16 billion to the GDP each year, yet we have traditionally received less than 1 percent of federal funding for higher education.,” the letter stated.
For decades, the federal government denied funding to HBCUs that it provided to predominantly White schools for infrastructure development and research. State lawmakers have followed the same discriminatory pattern over the years.
According to the Associated Press, the cumulative endowment for all HBCUs was just over $3.9 billion in 2019. That is about the same amount as the University of Minnesota alone.
“Though we have all persevered and continue to provide high-quality, low-cost education for ALL, the trend of financial inequity is ultimately unsustainable for what we believe are some of the nation’s most important institutions of higher education,” the letter stated.
Biden’s investment in HBCUs included the American Rescue Plan and other pandemic relief funds that provided nearly $3.7 billion in relief funding to HBCUs. That was in addition to approximately $1.6 billion in debt relief to 45 HBCUs (13 public institutions and 32 private institutions).
The HBCU leaders acknowledged that the administration and federal lawmakers have, of late, worked toward correcting the historic underfunding of their schools. “But it requires a sustained, intentional effort to correct nearly 200 years of inequity,” they underscored.
RELATED: Congressional Black Caucus Says Biden’s Build Back Better is Good for Black Americans
According to The Washington Post, colleges and universities that educate large populations of Black, Hispanic and other minority students will benefit from a $6 billion increase in mandatory appropriations.
The HBCU leaders said there would be an additional $4 billion for research and infrastructure development through competitive program grants.
“It is a significant down payment on investment in an American future full of talented citizens who are not inhibited by where they come from or what they look like. You have the opportunity to help secure that future,” they told the Senate leaders.
Below is a full list of the signees.
Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr.
President, Alabama A&M University
Dr. Quinton Ross
President, Alabama State University
Dr. Marion Ross Fedrick
President, Albany State University
Dr. Felecia M. Nave, PhD
Alcorn State University
Dr. Ernest C. McNealey
President, Allen University
Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis
President, Benedict College
Dr. Suzanne Walsh
President, Bennett College
Dr. Aminta Breaux
President, Bowie State University
Dr. Jack Thomas
President, Central State University
Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack
President, Claflin University
Dr. Aaron Walton
President, Cheyney University
Dr. George T. French, Jr.
President, Clark Atlanta University
Dr. Lester A. McCorn
President, Clinton College
Dr. Anthony L. Jenkins
President, Coppin State University
Dr. Tony Allen
President, Delaware State University
Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough
President, Dillard University
Dr. A. Zachary Faison Jr.
President, Edward Waters University
Dr. Darrell T. Allison
Chancellor, Fayetteville State University
Dr. Larry Robinson
President, Florida A&M University
Dr. Paul Jones
President, Fort Valley State University
Dr. Richard J. Gallot, Jr.
President, Grambling State University
Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith
President, Harris-Stowe State University
Dr. Wayne Frederick
President, Howard University
Reverend Matthew Wesley Williams
President, Interdenominational Theological Center
Dr. Thomas K. Hudson
President, Jackson State University
Dr. Lester C. Newman
President, Jarvis Christian College
Dr. Clarence D. Armbrister
President, Johnson C. Smith University
Dr. Clara Ross Stamps
President, Kentucky State University
Dr. Logan Hampton
President, Lane College
Dr. Kent Smith, Jr.
President, Langston University
Dr. John Moseley
President, Lincoln University of Missouri
Dr. Brenda Allen
President, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr.
President, Livingstone College
Dr. David A. Thomas
President, Morehouse College
Dr. David Wilson
President, Morgan State University
Dr. Kevin James
President, Morris Brown College
Dr. Harold Martin
Chancellor, North Carolina A&T State University
Dr. Johnson Akinleye
Chancellor, North Carolina Central University
Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston
President, Norfolk State University
Dr. Roderick Smothers, Sr.
President, Philander Smith College
Dr. Ruth Simmons
President, Prairie View State University
Dr. Michael J. Sorrell
President, Paul Quinn College
Dr. Ivy Taylor
President, Rust College
Dr. Kimberly Ballard-Washington
President, Savannah State University
Dr. Paulette Dillard
President, Shaw University
Dr. Kevin W. Cosby
President, Simmons College of Kentucky
Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell
President, Spelman College
Colonel (Ret.) Alexander Conyers
President, South Carolina State University
Dr. Ray L. Belton
President-Chancellor, Southern University System
Dr. James H. Ammons Jr.
President, Southern University at New Orleans
Dr. Cynthia Warrick
President, Stillman College
Dr. Lisa Long
President, Talladega College
Dr. Glenda Glover
President, Tennessee State University
Dr. Dwight Fennell
President, Texas College
Dr. Carmen J. Walters
President, Tougaloo College
Dr. Charlotte P. Morris
President, Tuskegee University
Dr. Laurence B. Alexander
Chancellor, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Dr. Ronald Mason
President, University of the District of Columbia
Dr. Heidi Anderson
President, University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Dr. David Hall
President, University of the Virgin Islands
Dr. Makola Abdullah
President, Virginia State University
Dr. Ericke Cage
President, West Virginia State University
Dr. Elfred Anthony Pinkard
President, Wilberforce University
Dr. Herman J. Felton
President, Wiley College
Dr. Elwood L. Robinson
Chancellor, Winston-Salem State University
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said that the letter sent to Sen. Schumer went out on Nov. 29. In actuality it was sent Nov. 30. Also, the Build Back Better Act passed the House on Nov. 19, not Nov. 21. Finally, the story was updated to reflect that 65 HBCU leaders signed the letter.