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The Voice of the Black Community

Local & State

Omnibus adds spending for historically black colleges
Budget includes infrastructure and financial aid
 
Published Friday, March 23, 2018 10:06 pm
by Herbert L. White

The $1.3 trillion federal omnibus budget that keeps the government open for six months includes new spending for historically black colleges.


The law, signed Friday by President Donald Trump, adds money for infrastructure and financial aid, long-held priorities for HBCU advocates. U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, a Charlotte Democrat and co-chair of the bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus, voted for the bill.


“… I’m thrilled to see the critical resources for HBCUs that our coalition advocated for, such as the expansion of the capital financing program, included in the 2018 omnibus,” she said in a statement. “This measure will ensure security for nearly a dozen HBCUs and the students they serve, including Johnson C. Smith University and Bennett College in North Carolina, through expanded access to essential funding for campus infrastructure and student programs.”

The omnibus includes several funding streams to HBCUs, including:


• Raising the maximum award for Pell Grants by $175 without an index to inflation, a shift to mandatory funding, or restoration of Pell Grant eligibility.
• Increases TRIO and GEAR Up funding by $60 million and $10 million, respectively;


• Funding the National Park Service’s HBCU Historic Preservation Program at $5 million, in line with an amendment sponsored by Adams and James Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina;


• Boost funding for the HBCU Capital Financing Program by $10 million to allow schools struggling with financial difficulties due to their loans a deferment on payment for three to six years.

“Congresswoman Adams’ stalwart leadership on behalf of HBCUs has been vital to expand the promise of an affordable, quality higher education for all,” said Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. “Nothing brings more money to the U.S. Treasury than investments in education— from early learning, K through 12, college to lifelong learning.

“With this funding, House Democrats are proud to deliver on that promise at HBCUs, from campus infrastructure to improving the purchasing power of Pell Grants.  Ensuring the long-term security and stability of these historic institutions as engines of opportunity will help put a meaningful degree within reach for every man and woman.”

More than 231,000 students were enrolled at black colleges in 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, with 80 percent of them African Americans. Total enrollment at HBCUs dropped from 326,614 in 2010 to 294,316 in 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics as the percentage of black collegians attending a black college dropped from 18 percent in 1976 to 8 percent in 2014.

Adams, a graduate of N.C. A&T State University and a former professor at Bennett, has been an advocate of HBCUs and has taken Trump to task over inaction to fund them in a manner commensurate with their role as a provider of education opportunity for lower-income and first-generation students.


“As a proud two-time graduate of an HBCU and a retired HBCU educator of 40 years, I know the inherent value of these schools,” Adams said. “Despite the fact that they provide pathways of greater opportunity for thousands of students and contribute $14 billion to our economy annually, they continue to be underfunded and undervalued. That is why today’s victory is such a pivotal moment.”

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