Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were founded in the face of discrimination and have a proud history and legacy of achievement. HBCUs vary in size and academic focus and serve a range of diverse students and communities in urban, rural, and suburban settings. But all of them create pathways to opportunity for Black students and foster academic excellence throughout our nation.
As the President will note in his remarks at South Carolina State, HBCU graduates are leaders in every field and include barrier-breaking doctors, business owners, scientists, artists, lawyers, engineers, and educators, many of whom are public servants. Several HBCU graduates serve in senior roles in the Biden-Harris Administration, including Vice President Kamala Harris – the first HBCU graduate ever to serve as Vice President of the United States – as well as Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan.
Despite this record of success, disparities in resources and opportunities for HBCUs and their students persist, and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted new and continuing challenges for HBCUs. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to shared prosperity and advancing equity for all Americans, and a key part of this commitment is supporting HBCUs.
Historic Investments in HBCUs
Since January, the Biden-Harris Administration has delivered a historic $5.8 billion cumulative investment in and support for HBCUs, including:
- American Rescue Plan. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and other pandemic relief has provided nearly $3.7 billion in relief funding to HBCUs this year alone. These emergency grants were funded directly to HBCUs from the Department of Education and have helped HBCUs and their students mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on students’ educational attainment. They have helped institutions support students’ ability to meet basic needs; target resources to students with the greatest need; support campus operations, staffing, teaching, and educational programs; and keep campus communities safe by preventing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
- Debt Relief. The Department of Education discharged approximately $1.6 billion of debt from loans provided to HBCUs for capital improvements through the Department’s HBCU Capital Financing Program. The action resulted in debt relief to 45 HBCUs — 13 public institutions and 32 private institutions — earlier this year. Discharging these debts has enabled these institutions to focus resources on supporting students, faculty, and staff while recovering from the pandemic.
- Grant Funding. In July and August 2021, the Department of Education awarded more than $500 million in grant funding to HBCUs for academic capacity-building and fiscal stability.
Ensuring Continued Support for HBCUs through the Build Back Better Act
President Biden’s Build Back Better Act would ensure sustained investment in HBCUs and their students. These funds will help HBCUs address a wide range of needs, including student financial aid, infrastructure upgrades, and campus services. The Act includes dedicated funds for HBCUs and the opportunity to compete for billions more:
- Financial Support for HBCUs. Build Back Better provides $10 billion to HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and minority-serving institutions (MSIs).
- Capacity-Building: This includes a $6 billion increase in funding for existing grants that help HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs strengthen their academic, administrative, and fiscal capabilities, including by creating or expanding educational programs in high-demand fields (e.g., STEM, computer sciences, nursing, and allied health), of which $2 billion is dedicated specifically for HBCUs. This is a five-fold increase from the amounts that HBCUs typically receive annually through these funding streams.
- Research and Development: Build Back Better includes $4 billion to create new competitive research and development programs specifically for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs at the Department of Education and Department of Agriculture. These dollars will help HBCUs build their research capacity and related infrastructure.
- Pell Grant Increases for HBCU Students. Pell Grants provide need-based grants to more than 6 million low- and moderate-income undergraduate students. These grants are especially critical to HBCU students, 75% of whom rely on Pell Grants (versus 39% of all US undergraduate students). The Build Back Better Act would increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $550 for students enrolled at public and private non-profit colleges, providing more money for HBCU students to pay for college.
- Teacher Quality Funding. Build Back Better includes $112 million for the Augustus Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program, which will invest in strengthening and expanding teacher preparation programs at HBCUs and other Minority-Serving Institutions.
Increased Funding in President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Budget Request
President Biden’s FY22 budget request for the Department of Education includes a total of $807 million in discretionary funding to HBCUs, an increase of $72 million over last year’s funding level, which will substantially increase key HBCU funding streams to support research, infrastructure, and student support services, amongst other programming.
- President Biden’s FY22 budget request would raise the maximum Pell Grant award by another $400, on top of the funding provided by the Build Back Better Act, for a total increase of $950 that can be used to support education at HBCUs.
Strengthening the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs
In September, President Biden signed an Executive Order to re-establish the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs and issued a proclamation recognizing National HBCU Week. The Executive Order:
- Calls for a whole of government approach to support HBCUs, including by ensuring that HBCUs can respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and breaking down barriers and improving access to federal funding and other programs, particularly in areas of research and development;
- Directs senior officials in the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President to consult and collaborate with the Initiative on policy priorities for HBCUs; and
- Requires federal agencies to submit plans by February 1st of each year describing their efforts to increase HBCU access to federal programs and initiatives.
During HBCU week in September, President Biden also named Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University, as Chair of the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs. The Board, originally established by the Carter Administration, is meant to engage key stakeholders in fields such as education, business, and philanthropy to advance the goals of the HBCU Initiative.