Two New Senate Bills Could Strengthen HBCUs

California Senator Kamala Harris sponsored one of two bills supporting HBCUs that passed the Senate.

California Senator Kamala Harris sponsored one of two legislative bills supporting HBCUs that passed the Senate.

By Free Radical

The US Senate passed two legislative measures that could be a major boon to the nation’s HBCUs.  The HBCU Propelling Agency Relations Toward a New Era of Results for Students Act, or simply known as the HBCU PARTNERS Act, would require federal agencies with relevant grants and programs to expand participation to make greater strides to include the nation’s HBCUs.  The bill, which was introduced by Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and the nation’s only Black Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, will also require federal agencies to share their plans with Congress and track their progress.

Howard alum Kamala Harris, the junior Senator of California and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, also introduced the re-authorization of the HBCU Historic Preservation Program, which would provide federal funding to restore buildings and sites of historical significance on HBCU campuses.

Private organizations such as the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the United Negro College Fund, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have all pushed for these legislative measures.

In speaking about her sponsorship of the HBCU PARTNERS Act, Kamala Harris stated, “Our nation’s HBCUs are absolutely essential to preparing Black students for the jobs and challenges of the 21st century, and we must ensure that they have the resources they need to continue that mission.” She continued, “I’m thrilled that the United States Senate has passed this legislation to ensure the federal government is working hand in hand with HBCUs to keep them strong.”

Both will have to be approved by the House and President Donald Trump, who has at least given lip service to supporting HBCUs.

In February 2017, the newly elected president held a highly publicized (and criticized) summit of HBCU presidents where he spoke about their centrality to the nation’s higher education landscape and pledged support.

However, just months later he wrote that he would treat a program which helps HBCUs get low-cost loans “in a manner consistent with the (Constitutional) requirement to afford equal protection of the laws.” The assumption of the statement is that he would consider this provision as preferential and unconstitutional treatment for African-Americans based on race and thus may target this policy for elimination.

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