Senator Kamala Harris (File Photo)
U.S. Senator Doug Jones (File Photo)

U.S. Senators Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) today announced that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will receive a 14-percent increase in federal funding in the Senate’s omnibus spending bill, from $244.7 million in FY17 to $279.6 million in FY18. The funding increase follows a request made by Senators Jones and Harris last month in a letter to the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Their letter was supported by 12 of their Senate colleagues and is copied below.

“Alabama’s fifteen Historically Black Colleges and Universities are integral to our world-class university system,” said Senator Jones. “Despite enrolling roughly 300,000 students each year nationwide, HBCUs have faced significant funding challenges, with some even forced to close their doors. These schools provide a path for so many first-generation college students, many of whom come from under-served backgrounds. I am proud that our efforts to increase federal support have 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.”

“HBCUs are critical to the foundation of our higher education system, and provide opportunities for some of the nation’s most promising and deserving students, said Senator Harris. “I am pleased funds in this bipartisan budget agreement will be invested in the future of these young people. Ensuring HBCUs have the federal support and resources they need to thrive for generations to come is one of my top priorities as a proud HBCU graduate.”

In addition to the increased funding for HBCUs, historically Black graduate institutions will also receive a 14-percent funding increase, from $63.3 million to $72.3 million. Predominantly Black Institutions will receive a boost from $9.9 million to $11.4 million.

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. Alabama is home to more HBCUs than any other state in the country.

On February 22, 2018 Senators Jones and Harris sent a letter with 12 of their colleagues to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies requesting that the upcoming omnibus bill contain a restoration and increase in federal support to HBCUs. Joining Jones and Harris, the letter was signed by Senators Booker, Brown, Casey, Cardin, Carper, Coons, Durbin, Kaine, Nelson, Warner, Warren, and Van Hollen. In addition to the increase in funding, the bill contains a directive to the Secretary of Education to create and execute an outreach plan to work with States and the Capital Financing Advisory Board to improve outreach to States and help additional public Historically Black Colleges and Universities participate in the program.

Below is the text of their letter sent on February 22, 2018:


Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:

As you prepare to finalize the FY 2018 appropriations process, we request that you restore and increase federal support to our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This is a critical time to invest in HBCUs, which collectively enroll more than 300,000 students. HBCUs serve a unique and crucial educational purpose, providing a gateway to the middle class for many first-generation, low-income, and minority Americans. Further, an HBCU education has been the common thread that runs through the stories of many of our nation’s great leaders, innovators, and job creators.

HBCUs make substantial contributions to the nation’s economic strength. A recent report by UNCF found that HBCUs generate $14.8 billion in annual economic impact, as well as over 134,000 jobs, both on-campus and off. Having an HBCU degree lifted the lifetime earnings of their graduates by 56% — or an estimated $927,000 – over what they would have earned without their degree.[1] Increased federal aid will only add to the job creating capacity of these institutions, and support even more students who will be able to reap the benefits of having a degree from an HBCU. We strongly support funds from the bipartisan budget agreement being invested in HBCUs, and ask for an additional investment for HBCU priorities in the final FY 2018 appropriations bill.

While there are many programs across the federal agencies that are important to HBCUs, we want to highlight two of the most pressing HBCU priorities:

Title III, Part B of the Higher Education Act, Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities, is the key program providing institutional support for academic programs, student services, infrastructure, and technology needs at the 101 accredited HBCUs. Because HBCUs have traditionally been under-resourced, this formula-based program provides critical support to daily functions on campus as well as innovative efforts to produce graduates prepared for the modern, global workforce. The House and Senate appropriations bills each freeze discretionary funding at $245 million for the program, but given increasing needs to serve the most economically and academically vulnerable students, additional resources are required.  We ask for an increase in funding in the FY 2018 appropriations bill to help bring the program closer to full funding.

HBCU Capital Financing Program

Despite the important role HBCUs play in higher education, they have struggled financially due to having smaller endowments, less money from alumni giving, and lower levels of federal investment. As a result, the infrastructure of many of these institutions has not kept pace with their growing student bodies and the demands of training students for careers in the 21st century. The HBCU Capital Financing Program provides HBCUs with access to capital financing or refinancing for the repair, renovation, and construction of campus infrastructure. To aid in the effectiveness of this program, we ask that in the FY2018 appropriations bill, that the subcommittee reclassify the escrow account as a bond insurance fund so that public institutions participating in the program have the opportunity to use state funds to pay off loans more quickly.

Thank you for your consideration.