HBCUs Get Few R&D Dollars, Leaders Say
The share of federal research dollars flowing to Black colleges is going down instead of up, says one HBCU leader who is urging Congress to focus more attention on the issue.
Of the $14 billion awarded government-wide to colleges and universities for research and development, less than 1 percent — or $164 million — is going to historically Black colleges, says Dr. Frederick Humphries, president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Education (NAFEO).
Worse yet, the dollars to HBCUs are going down, Humphries told a House Education and the Workforce subcommittee in February. Using National Science Foundation (NSF) data, Humphries said the $164 million is below the $202 million HBCUs received in 1995 and the $188 million allotted in 1996.
“It is imperative that Congress hold those agencies charged with managing the nation’s science and technology agenda accountable in how they distribute resources and engage HBCUs in their activities,” Humphries said.
Even NSF, with $1.9 billion going to colleges, offered relatively little to Black colleges. About 2 percent of these dollars went to HBCUs, despite a federal mandate that calls on the science agency to refrain from “undue concentration” of funding among certain sectors of higher education.
One way to address these imbalances is to fund a small NSF program designed to improve the competitive research capacity of HBCUs that offer doctoral degrees in science, Humphries said. Congress provided $2.6 million for this small program for 2002, but the Bush administration budget plan would include no additional funding.
“Even more disturbing are the budget recommendations that would either level, reduce or destroy funding for almost every HBCU-specific program at almost every federal agency engaged in national R&D efforts,” Humphries said.
The NAFEO leader also urged Congress to approve new legislation to support historic preservation at HBCUs. Many of the colleges’ most historic buildings are suffering from asbestos and lead paint hazards, leaky roofs and other potentially damaging threats. Under a House plan, Congress would provide additional funds for HBCU facility preservation efforts.
“Many structures on HBCU campuses are in severe need of repair,” he said.
Aside from historic preservation, many HBCUs need more funds for new facilities, says Delaware State University President Dr. William DeLauder, who also testified before the panel.
Private HBCUs are in particular need of help with facilities, DeLauder said. “The maintenance of existing facilities and the need to construct modern facilities are continuing challenges for many HBCUs, and especially for private ones,” he added.
Quality HBCU graduate programs also are essential for greater access to federal R&D funds. For example, increased federal support for the Title III Higher Education Act HBCU graduate program could help more schools develop doctoral programs, DeLauder said. Schools with doctoral programs are among the heaviest recipients of federal research dollars.
Other priorities for Black colleges include major increases in the maximum Pell Grant for needy students. Humphries told the panel he favored a Pell maximum of $7,000 within three years. The current maximum is $4,000. Citing a Pell shortfall and other competing demands, the Bush administration has not proposed an increase in the top grant for next year.
The House and Senate are just beginning to hold hearings on the Bush administration’s budget request for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The White House budget does recommend a 3 percent increase in the main Title III HBCU grant program.
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