His­tor­i­cally Black Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties re­ceive fund­ing in­crease

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By K. BAR­RETT BILALI Spe­cial for South Florida Times

WASH­ING­TON - Tucked within the 2018 Om­nibus bud­get is in­creased fed­eral fund­ing for His­tor­i­cally Black Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties or HBCUs. Nearly $280 mil­lion will be spent on con­struc­tion and in­fra­struc­ture projects and fi­nan­cial aid for the nearly 250,000 stu­dents served by black col­leges na­tion­wide. The bill raised the al­lo­ca­tion to HCBUs by 14 per­cent.

The $1.3 tril­lion Om­nibus bill passed in the House by a 256-167 vote and later passed the Se­nate. Pres­i­dent Trump threat­ened to veto the legislation but later de­cided to sign it on Fri­day.

“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,” said Con­gress­woman Alma Adams, a Demo­crat from North Carolina who voted for the bill. Adams also serves as co-chair of the bi­par­ti­san His­tor­i­cally Black Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties Cau­cus.

“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.” said Adams in a state­ment.

Stu­dents in the four his­tor­i­cally black col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in Florida -Florida A&M in Tal­la­has­see, Florida Me­mo­rial Univer­sity in Mi­ami Gar­dens, Ed­ward Wa­ters Col­lege in Jack­sonville and Bethune-Cook­man Univer­sity in Day­tona Beach -- will di­rectly ben­e­fit from the in­creased fund­ing.

Last May, Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos was booed dur­ing a com­mence­ment speech as a guest at Bethune Cook­man Univer­sity af­ter de­scrib­ing HBCUs as "pi­o­neers of school choice" in a pub­lic fo­rum four months ear­lier.

DeVos would later meet pri­vately with of­fi­cials at Bethune-Cook­man Univer­sity and Florida A&M Univer­sity to de­velop a bet­ter dia­logue on the ad­min­is­tra­tion com­mit­ment to African-Amer­i­can ed­u­ca­tion is­sues. The meet­ing was kept pri­vate but lo­cal church lead­ers and Rep. Al Law­son, D-Fla were re­port­edly in at­ten­dance.

Bethune-Cook­man is re­port­edly strug­gling fi­nan­cially but still ac­tive in ed­u­cat­ing lo­cal res­i­dents and pro­vid­ing ac­tivism in the com­mu­nity. Their lob­by­ing ef­forts last month in­flu­enced the Florida House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to in­clude a statue of their founder, Mary McLeod Bethune, in the U.S. Capi­tol’s Stat­u­ary Hall. The his­tor­i­cally black col­lege was started by Bethune, an ed­u­ca­tor and civil rights ac­tivist, as a train­ing school for girls in 1904.

Bethune-Cook­man Univer­sity may be able to ben­e­fit from in­creased fund­ing to the HBCU Cap­i­tal Fi­nanc­ing Pro­gram which al­lows schools to ap­ply for loan de­fer­rments.

Pres­i­dent Trump met last year with nearly 100 ed­u­ca­tional lead­ers within the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity pledg­ing "un­wa­ver­ing sup­port" black col­leges.

At the time, Trump signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to "strengthen the ca­pac­ity of HBCUs to pro­vide the high­est-qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and pro­vide eq­ui­table op­por­tu­ni­ties for HBCUs to par­tic­i­pate in Fed­eral pro­grams.”

The or­der also es­tab­lished a 25-mem­ber Pres­i­den­tial ad­vi­sory board to keep a good line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the White House and HBCUs.

"There's no real effort that we see," said Rep. Ben­nie Thomp­son (D-Miss.), who openly crit­i­cized the Pres­i­dent’s ef­forts. "His meet­ing with HBCU pres­i­dents, for the most part, was a photo op that did not gen­er­ate any sub­stan­tive legislation or fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits to those col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties."

Trump was also crit­i­cized for de­lay­ing the nam­ing of an ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor to ad­min­is­ter the ad­vi­sory group. Ed­u­ca­tional con­sul­tant Johnathan Ho­lifield, who did not at­tend a HBCU school, was named the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Pres­i­dent's ini­tia­tive on His­tor­i­cally Black Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties a few months later.

Florida stu­dents want­ing to at­tend a his­tor­i­cally-black col­lege or univer­sity will ben­e­fit from more fund­ing for Pell Grants. TRIO and GEAR pro­grams, which pro­vide greater outreach for low-in­come or dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents, will also see fund­ing in­creases.


Trump signed the ex­ec­u­tive or­der af­ter meet­ings with HBCU pres­i­dents and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers ear­lier this week.


Florida Me­mo­rial Univer­sity, Bethune Cook­man U. Howard Univer­sity and Spelman Univer­sity

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