A group of Democratic and Republican legislators have draften and officially introduced a bill that would provide funding for the long term improvement of HBCUs, including renovation of campus facilities, repair and construction, purchase of equipment, preservation of historic buildings and high speed broadband.
"For over 150 years, HBCUs have been agents of equity, access and excellence in education, despite being ignored and marginalized by federal and state governments. This historic bipartisan bill changes that," said Democratic North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams, one of the lead sponsors of the bill, said last week.
Named the Institutional Grants for New Infrastructure, Technology, and Education (IGNITE) for HBCU Excellence Act, the bill emerged as a result of a June 2018 Government Accountability Office (GAO) that identified “extensive and diverse” capital project needs at HBCUs.
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For example, out of 79 colleges surveyed for the report, 70 of them said that 46 percent of their buildings needed repair or replacement. Also 8 out of 35 public HBCUs reported more than 75 percent of their building spaces needed repair or replacement
Also 42 surveyed HBCUs said 11 percent of their buildings are historic, but the U.S. Department of the Interior says the schools do not have the resources to do the maintenance. Both public and private Black colleges have deferred maintenance backlogs of $67 million and $17 respectively.
Republican Arkansas Rep. French Hill has three HBCUs in his district and signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill. He said the legislation would give needed improvements to the schools in his community.
"As a former community banker and a former chamber chairman in metro Little Rock, I know the academic and economic power and strength of these HBCUs, not only for the benefit of those students, but for the benefit of the greater Little Rock workforce," Hill said, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "This bill will, in my view, give them the tools and conditions and infrastructure they need for the campus in the future and the students of the future."