Hooray Black Colleges Receive Boost in Omnibus Spending Bill

March 23, 2018 Off By Michael
Tuskegee University founded in 1881 by Lewis Adams, a Black businessman, who traded his political support to two white Democrats in the 1880 state legislative races, in exchange for a $2,000 appropriation for teachers salaries to open the school, is poised to reap the benefits of increased federal funding in FY 18. Photo ©2015 Harold Michael Harvey

Good news for the nations Historically Black Colleges and Universities. When President Trump signed the Omnibus Spending Bill today little did he know, he approved a 14 percent increase in federal funding for HBCUs.

Many of the Black schools were founded in the first 50 years following the Civil War. There are 100 HBCUs still in existence. Many of them are in dire need of financial assistance to keep afloat. Last month Concordia College in Selma, Alabama announced they will close their doors following this academic school year, just four years short of a century providing education to Black Americans.

Trump briefly met with presidents of these Black institutions last year in what amounted to little more than a photo op for the president and Kellyanne Conway. Also, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education has paid little more than lip service to the needs of HBCUs.

Earlier in the month, the HBCU presidents came to Washington again to lobby for more federal aid for their schools. This time they opted not to meet with the president. The HBCU presidents made their case to the Congressional Black Caucus and other legislators.

The key to this year’s increased appropriations was the joint support from Senators Kamala Harris (D-California) and Doug Jones (D-Alabama).

Jones in his first year in the senate was elected last fall in a special election to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He owes his place in the senate to the Black community, more specifically, Black women.

Jones just paid back the Black community with big dividends in the form of $279.6 million in Fiscal Year 2018. This is up from $244.7 million in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

Jones said, “Alabama’s fifteen Historically Black Colleges and Universities are integral to our world-class university system.”

Alabama State University was founded in 1887 by nine freed slaves who raised $500 to open a school for Black people. ASU, which was originally named Lincoln Normal School for President Abraham Lincoln is ranked as a Tier II school by U S News and World Report. File Photo

“Despite enrolling roughly 300,000 students each year nationwide, HBCUs have faced significant funding challenges, with some even forced to close their doors…I am proud that our efforts to increase funding has been successful, and I will continue to advocate for these institutions that have done so much to help my constituents in Alabama and people across the country,” Jones said.

The increase spending on the Black schools comes as a surprise because it was largely believed that Trump was merely toying with the nation’s HBCUs and had no intention of assisting in their survival.

Also, Black graduate schools will receive increased funding from $63.3 million to 72.3 million.

Jones support was crucial to this appropriation because the state of Alabama has more HBCUs than any state in the nation.

According to Jones’ office, “Alabama’s HBCUs generate $1.5 billion in total economic impact for the state. Additionally, more than 15,000 jobs are generated for local and regional economies, and increase their graduates lifetime earnings by 56 percent over what they would have earned without a college degree.”

A key component of this appropriation is a directive to the Secretary of Education to create and execute an outreach plan to work with State and the Capital Financing Advisory Board to improve outreach to States and help additional public Historically Black Colleges and Universities participate in the program.

The increased funding slipped under the nose of Trump as he was busy fuming over the absence of funding for his wall on the Mexican border.

Hooray for HBCUs!

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com