April 06, 2022

Van Hollen, Tillis Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Spur Greater Research and Investment in local HBCUs

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) introduced new legislation aimed at spurring greater research investment in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), while strengthening our national defense research ecosystem. The Senator’s HBCU Research, Innovation, Security, and Excellence (RISE) Act would help boost HBCUs to “very high research activity status,” also known as “R1” status, which would provide both more opportunities to students and create increased funding availability to the universities. Maryland’s Morgan State University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore as well as North Carolina A&T State University and the District of Columbia’s Howard University are all classified as “R2” universities who could benefit from this legislation to help them achieve “R1” status.

Meaningfully investing in the highest performing research-focused HBCUs is an investment in our nation’s future that will help meet the accelerating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics workforce demands and safeguard the national security interests of the United States.

“Maryland’s HBCUs provide a quality education, a unique experience, and an enriching environment for thousands of students. And supporting their growth and research capabilities is key to supporting the students, faculty, and staff at these institutions to spur a more diverse pipeline for careers in STEM. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill to help expand research opportunities for our outstanding HBCUs in Maryland and across the country. Investing more in their success – and the success of our students – is an investment in our future,” said Senator Van Hollen.  

“North Carolina A&T is a world-class university and just one example of the crucial role that HBCUs play in cultivating cutting-edge research and our workforce pipeline in the state,” said Senator Tillis. “I am proud to co-introduce this bipartisan legislation to help our HBCUs continue this important work, reach R1 status, and strengthen our national defense research network.” 

The HBCU RISE Act directs the Secretary of Defense to establish a pilot program to increase capacity at high research activity status (R2) Historically Black Colleges and Universities to achieve very high research activity status (R1). The Secretary may expand the program to other HBCUs beyond those HBCUs classified as high research activity status universities if the Secretary determines that the program can support such an expansion. 

In consultation with the Defense Science Board, the Secretary will establish annually a list of strategic areas of defense research for which the eligible institutions would apply for funding. Eligible uses of funds to support research activities include: faculty professional development; stipends for undergrad, graduate, and post-doctoral scholars; lab equipment and instrumentation; recruitment and retention of faculty and graduate students; construction, modernization, rehabilitation, and retrofitting of facilities for research purposes; and other activities necessary to build capacity in research activity indicator areas.

The legislation is endorsed by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and supported by Maryland’s Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) as well as North Carolina A&T State University and the District of Columbia’s Howard University.  

“The proposed legislation to advance the research status and capacity of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities comes at critical time, as African-American communities are disproportionately impacted by health disparities, sustained multigenerational economic inequalities, and pervasive structural racism. We commend Sen. Chris Van Hollen and the others who have sought to address this matter in a meaningful way,” said David K. Wilson, president of Morgan State University. “Morgan has a goal of achieving R1 'very high research' status and enlarging our role as Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University and as an anchor institution in the city of Baltimore. We can make a greater difference within the communities that we serve, and elevating our capabilities in research places the University in the best position to do so.”

“Research universities, by definition, emphasize research and graduate education. As a Carnegie Classified High-Research (R2) University the University of Maryland Eastern Shore focuses on correcting issues that negatively impact society such as climate change, food safety, or health care disparities; all while teaching students to become future leaders in these areas. Achieving R1 Carnegie Classification could allow UMES, and other HBCUs, to qualify for additional funding and grant opportunities, and to partner with industry, to continue the great work that will better the lives of the citizens of the State of Maryland,” said Dr. Heidi Anderson, President, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, 1890 Land Grant University.

“I strongly support Senator Van Hollen’s bill that will help HBCUs attain R1 status,” said Wayne A. I. Frederick, president of Howard University. “Not only will this designation cement the status of HBCUs as vital research institutions, but it will also create new opportunities for students of color to conduct critical research that can change the world for the better. Research plays a vital role in shifting the trajectory of our society. But when the research enterprise is unrepresentative of the society it is seeking to benefit, the research produced is doomed to fall short of its promises and potential. Diversity is essential to ensure that research is generated in the best interest of all people, including those who have historically been marginalized and overlooked. With an R1 status, HBCUs will be better positioned to influence the direction and intention of research throughout the higher education landscape.”

 The text of legislation is available here.