Senators Kamala Harris of California and Doug Jones of Alabama are fighting for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) by spearheading a push for increased funding.
The Democratic Senate leaders announced on Wednesday, March 21, that HBCUs will receive a 14 percent funding increase that will boost the original funding from $244.7 million in FY17 to $279.6 million in FY18.
According to a statement sent to Blavity on behalf of Harris and Jones, Harris stated that the funding increase was necessary to ensure that HBCUs receive the proper resources to educate generations to come.
“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," Senator Harris said. “I am pleased funds in this bipartisan budget agreement will be invested in the future of these young people.”
The 14 percent funding increase will also be applied to other black graduate schools and predominantly black institutions. Graduate schools will receive a boost from $63.3 million to $72.3 million, and predominantly black institutions will receive a boost from $9.9 million to $11.4 million.
"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,” Harris said.
Jones fully supports the funding increase because Alabama has more HBCUs than any other state in the nation.
“Alabama’s 15 historically black colleges and universities are integral to our world-class university system,” Jones said.
“Despite enrolling roughly 300,000 students each year nationwide, HBCUs have faced significant funding challenges, with some even forced to close their doors," he added. "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.”
The 15 HBCUs in the state generate $1.5 billion for the state and are responsible for employing an estimated 15,000 people. Last month, Jones, Harris and 12 of their colleagues sent a letter 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.
Senators Cory Booker, Dick Durbin, Tim Kaine and Elizabeth Warren were some of the most notable supporters of the letter.