The Biden administration included $45 billion for HBCUs in a 10-year multi-trillion dollar spending plan, but the most recent iteration of the bill outlining the economic spending package allots just $2 billion to America’s Black institutions.
The $2 billion in Joe Biden’s signature Build Back Better Act would go toward educational programs and infrastructure for Black colleges, but would be reduced to competitive grant funding rather than direct payments.
The draft bill also includes $27 billion for student aid at Black colleges and other institutions serving racial minorities.
“We’d like to do as much as we can,” said Rep. Bobby Scott, the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “I’m not satisfied. I’m not satisfied with anything in the budget that’s within our jurisdiction.”
But Kevin Cosby, president of Simmons College of Kentucky in Louisville, warned against putting HBCUs in the same category as institutions that serve minorities.
“To mix them with minority-serving institutions, which are are not historic institutions that do not have the legacy of historic discrimination, is not right,” he told The Associated Press this week. “Historically Black colleges and universities should be separated as a protected class of institutions because, like the Black community, our experience in the United States of America is a unique experience.”
In the 15-page spending plan that initially included $45 billion for Black institutions, the memo noted that while HBCUs make up just 3 percent of four-year institutions, their graduates account for 80 percent of Black judges and half of Black lawyers and doctors.
The shrinking allocation of funds to HBCUs is a result of Democrats sparring over what the bill should cover as the total $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act package meets resistance from moderate House Democrats as well as Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, whose votes in the Senate would be necessary to passing the package through the process known as reconciliation.
On social media, the budget cuts to HBCU funding were the target of swift criticism.
“This is not acceptable @SenateDems. There are 107 HBCUs in our country, most desperately in need of assistance and shored-up infrastructure,” wrote NAACP Legal Defense Fund President Sherriln Ifill.
“Don’t you EVER tell me again that Joe Biden is a pro-black President,” wrote Florida Republican Representative candidate.
Others pointed out that Biden’s initial plan was fairly bold. “About that cut again. Biden-Harris pledged $70B to HBCUs & other MSIs. There has never been a proposal that audacious,” wrote Walter M. Kimbrough, 7th president of Dillard University.
Rep. Alma Adams has said she will vote against the bill because of the limited funding for HBCUs.
“We can’t build back better unless we build our HBCUs back better. Promises made must be promises kept,” she said.