HBCUs and the Biden Administration’s Strong Financial Support
Last updated on March 20, 2022 by BVN
Phyllis Kimber Wilcox |
The Biden administration’s U.S. bailout is providing much-needed funding to underserved communities across the country, including $2.7 billion for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) nationwide.
From its inception, HBCUs have been an important means of retaining and graduating low-income African-American students, especially those who are the first in their families to pursue a college education. HBCUs educate more low-income students than any other college.
This week, in an exclusive interview with black voice news, Dr. Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University (an HBCU) and Chairman of President Biden’s HBCU Advisory Board, spoke of the administration’s commitment to higher education for underserved communities:
Thanks for talking to us today. Higher education relief funding has been very important for families and students with limited resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half of the funding provided by the administration aims to ensure that these students are impacted as little as possible. Can you give an example of how this works?
Quite frankly, I can tell you that, like most colleges and universities across the country, the State of Delaware, right after our spring break, advised our students to stay home for the remainder of the semester, at the exception of 200 [students]-think of those 200 otherwise homeless people without Delaware State University. Our ability to ensure they were supported throughout the pandemic had everything to do with the support we received from the Biden and Harris administration and Congress.
I simply cannot overstate the stories of food insecurity and acknowledge the support they need for their families as they grow from mere students to primary breadwinners. There are all kinds of things that just happened. It was therefore important for us to be able to help students directly. Regardless of that however, the institutional support we have received, which has been equally important in ensuring that these students can cross that finish line and graduate.
I am proud to say that we have graduated more students than ever over the past two years. We were able to do a debt relief exercise for our seniors last spring and we’re doing what I think is one of the best COVID protocols in the country and it has a lot to do with the specific engagement and support of Biden and Harris Administration.
Can you tell me a bit about the debt relief program and how it works?
We did two things. First, some of the money we received goes directly to the students and in doing so we encourage them, if they have outstanding bills with the university, one of the options may be to refund some of that debt.
Regardless of that, through our institutional support, especially with our latest promotion, we have actually eliminated something like $750,000 in student debt for our senior graduates. So as they passed that milestone, we reduced their debt to zero and we were happy to do that simply because of the nature of what they had to go through over the past two years. And, [it was] equally important to ensure that they were on equal footing at the start of their career path.
How do you envision the remaining funding being used to meet the long-term needs of HBCUs that are historically underfunded due to the financial circumstances of their students and alumni?
It is important for everyone to remember that the best return on investment in higher education is found in HBCUs. There was a report which came out about two months ago and which effectively said that the biggest factor for an African American man or an African American woman from a low-resource community entering the American middle class is their college degree. an HBCU.
We make up just three percent of all colleges and universities, and we’re still the single biggest pusher for black people entering the middle class. I can’t express enough how important this factoid is and what it means for our HBCU landscape.
The Biden Harris administration provided approximately $5.8 billion (in aid to HBCUs). I talked about the $3.7 billion in direct assistance, but on top of that there was an additional $1.6 billion in equity debt relief for about 45 HBCUs across the country. The inequalities in our capital and technology infrastructure between HBCUs and predominantly white institutions (PWIs) are systemic, historical, and ongoing. So, to be able to alleviate the capital debt of these HBCUs. . . I can’t tell you how important that would be for an institution.
Was there a formula that determined what each institution was entitled to? Could you tell me a bit more about that?
Yes. There was a formula. It is based largely, but not exclusively, on the number of students served, and then on a percentage of students who are otherwise poorly resourced, and this is for all colleges and universities. These were not the only factors, but there were two important ones.
But there was a special provision in the US bailout that was specific to HBCUs. So think about it [being] two slices [of aid]one being for all colleges and universities and then there was one that was specific to the HBCU landscape and we were able to access both tranches of funding.
So again, being able to think about how we start to fix systemic inequities and make these kinds of allocations as a no-brainer is important to President Biden and is certainly critical to my work on the advisory board. . [It] is really critical for the future of our HBCUs and I am very very optimistic about our future and our prospects.
In California, the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science received significant funding. Are there specific stipulations on how this money is supposed to be spent?
There are always clauses. There is nothing that I would call unlimited. These stipulations are quite outlined by the Ministry of Education and are clear in terms of the regulations that govern any funding. What’s particularly important to note, however, is that the administration has thought about the needs of HBCUs. . . flexibility in the use of these funds was paramount. So yes, there are restrictions. Yes. There are natural reporting requirements, as there would be for any federal award, but flexibility has been important in helping us address many of the persistent issues that organizations like ours face in a cycle. regular, but especially when we are facing a global pandemic.
What would you like readers to know about the importance of HBCUs and how they will affect the country in the future?
Fifty percent of all black college graduates in America today received their college education at an HBCU. This is important because of all the colleges and universities in the country, only 3% are HBCUs.
Second, we continue to get the greatest return on investment in higher education because even now, when we are only 3% of all colleges and universities, we are still graduating nearly 20% of all black students, so we are significantly overweight. Our socio-economic ability score, a factor used in research classifications and other rankings across the country, is far superior to many of our traditional counterparts, meaning you can enroll and graduate the least advantaged of our student population at the same levels as us. most advantaged graduates of our student population at the same levels. There aren’t many institutions that can proudly say as many HBCUs can, do, and still have done throughout our nearly two hundred years of existence.