March 19, 2020

Van Hollen, Booker, Jones Press for $1.5 Billion in Immediate Assistance to Minority-Serving Institutions Amidst COVID-19 Fallout

HBCUs and other MSIs face unique challenges in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Doug Jones (D-AL) urged Senate Leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate appropriators to direct $1.5 billion in emergency funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) to support urgent COVID-19 related costs. Over the past month, MSIs have had to cover substantial emergency expenses for students from low-income families, yet these colleges tend to have fewer financial resources than other institutions. Additionally, the move to distance education has forced MSIs to invest in infrastructure that they did not previously have, and purchase expensive technology, such as WiFi hotspots, for students without internet at home.

“As the Senate anticipates consideration of a third supplemental appropriations package in response to COVID-19, we respectfully request that a one-time increase of $1.5 billion is added to Minority-Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities under Title III, Part A and B, Title V, and Title VII of the Higher Education Act,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Leaders McConnell and Schumer. “Title III and V  and VII institutions are a refuge for the communities of students that they serve, and in these uncertain times they are needed now more than ever. Assuring an increase in funding for Title III and V will allow these schools to continue operating without fear of going bankrupt or having to raise tuition next year.”
MSIs include Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Predominantly Black Institutions, Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities, and Native American-Serving, and Nontribal Institutions. Even though these institutions serve many of the country’s most marginalized and promising students, many MSIs have smaller endowments, less money from alumni giving, and lower levels of federal investment. Maryland is home to a number of MSIs. 

“The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, NAFEO, the 50-year membership and advocate association of all HBCUs and PBIs, is grateful for the tremendous support Senator Booker continues to provide HBCUs, TCIs and MSIs,” NAFEO President and CEO Lezli Bakersville said. “Today, he is making a wise and just decision to urge America to further invest in HBCUs, TCIs, and MSIs because these institutions  are essential to closing the Nation’s persistent education and liberation gaps; the economic, wealth, and health gaps. These 800 equal educational opportunity American colleges and universities, are graduating 4.8 million undergraduate students in the U.S., 24% of ALL students. They are doing this despite their woeful underfunding. They are 'punching way above their weight.' We urge all United States Senators to Senator Booker’s request for $1.5B for HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs in the third Coronavirus supplemental.”

"In this time of tremendous uncertainty, in the midst of this ongoing health emergency, it is imperative that neither our Nation's HBCUs and MSIs, nor their students find themselves a casualty of the disease COVID-19", Thurgood Marshall College Fund President and CEO Harry L. Williams said. "Like other institutions of higher education, our HBCUs and PBIs are attempting to transition their academic instruction to a virtual environment, while simultaneously trying to manage the financial, technological and environmental challenges faced by many of their students, and doing so in the face of the resource limitations that our schools have historically encountered.  That is why the $1.5 billion in emergency Title III aid that Senator Booker and other Members of Congress are supporting is critical to helping our schools not only navigate this dynamic situation, but also ensure that our schools and their students are not unduly impacted by its ill effects. At a time when Congress is attempting to shore up our economy against the Coronavirus, it should be cognizant of the fact that our schools help educate some of our Nation's most vulnerable communities and, as such, they are particularly worthy of our federal government's support in this season of heightened need."

“HBCUs and their students are in need, expressly because of the response to the coronavirus, and we are calling on Senators and Members of the House to respond,” United Negro College Fund President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax said. “Our institutions are dealing with unique circumstances because of who we serve.  The digital divide is real in our community, and a stimulus bill should definitely reflect our needs and proposed solutions.  We applaud Senators who are stepping up to the plate to advocate for our institutions and the students they serve.”

The full text of the letter is available here.