Sens. Coons, Warnock, Ossoff lead colleagues in push to secure additional emergency relief for HBCUs
February 17, 2021
Senators Coons, Warnock, and Ossoff joined by 14 colleagues in a letter [warnock.senate.gov] urging Senate leaders to provide additional, equitable funding for the nation’s public and private HBCUs in COVID relief proposal
WILMINGTON, Del. – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) led a letter with 14 of their Senate colleagues urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allocate additional emergency relief for both public and private Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the COVID-19 relief proposal. Additionally, the lawmakers pushed the Senate leaders to ensure that HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) have equitable access to additional federal relief funds.
“HBCUs have historically experienced challenges in gaining access to the resources necessary to consistently provide quality academic programing to their students, maintain adequate infrastructure, hire and retain leading experts in various fields of study, and honor necessary financial obligations,” the lawmakers wrote. “Despite these challenges, HBCUs have been remarkably successful at educating our Nation’s political and economic leaders, including members of both chambers of Congress and the current Vice President of the United States.”
The letter seeks to build on the $1.7 billion in federal investments HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs received in the relief bill passed in December 2020, noting that this funding has been critical during the ongoing pandemic for institutions that educate a disproportionately high percentage of the nation’s underserved students. In the letter, the lawmakers also pressed Senate leadership to make sure that HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs receive at least the same proportion of federal funding they received in previous relief packages.
“President Biden, in his America’s Rescue Plan, proposed that Congress expand the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to ensure colleges have critical resources to implement public health protocols, execute distance learning plans, and provide emergency grants to students in need. The President also proposed that Congress provide at least $35 billion in funding to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, including funding to public and private HBCUs, MSIs, and TCUs. It is critical that Congress, at minimum, enact President Biden’s proposal and ensure that HBCUs, MSIs, and TCUs have equitable access to this fund,” the lawmakers added.
Along with Senators Coons, Warnock and Ossoff, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
The full text of the letter is available here [warnock.senate.gov] and below.
Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell:
As you work to craft another recovery package to help Americans cope with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge you to provide as much funding as possible for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and to ensure these institutions’ equitable access to urgent and necessary relief funds. We further request that HBCUs receive at least the same proportion of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund as they have received in last year’s COVID relief packages.
The Nation’s 101 accredited HBCUs are vital to the success of low-income, first-generation college students of color and contribute markedly to our Nation’s economy. Since the founding of the nation’s first HBCU in 1837, these institutions have survived racial and systemic discrimination not only within higher education, but also in other venues such as the labor market, financial market and the socio-political systems of the respective states in which they are located. Due to these factors, HBCUs have historically experienced challenges in gaining access to the resources necessary to consistently provide quality academic programing to their students, maintain adequate infrastructure, hire and retain leading experts in various fields of study, and honor necessary financial obligations. Despite these challenges, HBCUs have been remarkably successful at educating our Nation’s political and economic leaders, including members of both chambers of Congress and the current Vice President of the United States.
In the December 2020 Fiscal Year 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which included emergency, short-term COVID relief, HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) received $1.7 billion of the $22.7 billion Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. This funding was critical, as HBCUs, TCUs, and some MSIs educate a disproportionately high percentage of the nation’s underserved students. For example, Black students at HBCUs have been overwhelmingly highly impacted by coronavirus via health and economic circumstances such as higher unemployment. Students, faculty, and staff of color and Indian Country have also experienced acute suffering from higher rates of infection and mortality from COVID-19, which is why it is so important that all TCUs (as defined in Section 316(b)(3) of the Higher Education Act (20 USC 1059c)). As such, there is a critical need for additional emergency financial support to help these institutions through this historic economic and public health crisis.
President Biden’s America’s Rescue Plan proposes at least $35 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to ensure colleges have critical resources to implement public health protocols, execute distance learning plans, and provide emergency financial aid grants to students. It is critical that Congress, at minimum, enact President Biden’s proposal and ensure that HBCUs, MSIs, and TCUs have equitable access to this fund.
Specifically, we ask that the HBCU community, as well as TCUs and MSIs, receive as much of this fund as possible, and no less than the same portion of funding they received in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. We also request that the emergency funds not prematurely sunset while underresourced institutions are experiencing the consequences of the pandemic. We further request that Congress maintain a strong maintenance of effort provision to prevent states from cutting back their investments in higher education.
Finally, we ask for continued flexibility for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs to use their Higher Education Act Title III and VII grant dollars in ways which are most helpful to each respective institution as they attempt to adjust to the circumstances brought about by this crisis, and that HBCUs continue to be eligible for any additional allocated to the Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education for institutions facing significant unmet needs due to COVID-19.
Thank you for your consideration of our request, and we look forward to working with you to support these important programs in this time of crisis.