Congressional Coalition Forms To Give HBCUs New Voice

WASHINGTON

Seeking to capitalize on recent successes such as the renewal of the Higher Education Act, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) recently unveiled a detailed new legislative agenda along with plans to raise awareness of historically Black colleges in Congress.

The new visibility will come in the form of an “HBCU Caucus” created by members of the U.S. House of Representatives to lend another voice to financial aid and grant funding issues.

The goal is “bipartisan dialogue in Congress” focused on key HBCU legislative priorities, said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson,D-Texas, a cofounder of the caucus. Other cofounders are Rep. James Clyburn,D-S.C.,Housemajority whip, and Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., a sponsor of past legislation onHBCUs.

Despite recent legislative gains, “It’s been a struggle for our institutions to stay alive and grow,” Johnson said at a Washington, D.C., breakfast announcing the initiatives.

One priority for the caucus is securing funds for the newly created federal program to help minority-serving institutions address the digital divide on their campuses. Congress authorized the program under the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization bill but has yet to appropriatemoney for the initiative.

“An authorization is great. But funding will make all the difference in the world,” said Dr. Michael Lomax, president and chief executive officer of UNCF.

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