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Senate Plan Outlines New HBCU Preservation Strategy

Senate Plan Outlines New HBCU Preservation Strategy

The U.S. Senate has another new bill to promote historic preservation at HBCUs — a plan with new provisions recommended by UNCF-The College Fund.
The plan introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is similar to other bills introduced this session but with additional provisions suggested by UNCF, congressional aides say. The HBCU Historic Preservation Act of 2002 would allocate more federal funds for preservation while in some cases limiting the amount of matching funds colleges would have to provide for such projects.
“We simply need to make  HBCUs more contemporary, competitive, living and learning environments,” said Dr. Michael Lomax, Dillard University president, in supporting the bill introduced in late September.
Landrieu said her bill bears many similarities to other legislation but would include an “orderly process” to identify, need and set priorities. “It’s important to preserve these natural treasures,” the senator said.
The bill incorporates many provisions from legislation introduced by Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.
For example, both bills would set at 30 percent the amount of non-federal matching funds colleges would have to provide for projects. An earlier federal law had required HBCUs to provide a 50 percent match.
But the Landrieu bill goes beyond the earlier plan in other ways. According to a summary distributed by the senator’s staff, the new bill includes UNCF recommendations to:

• Require a comprehensive assessment of all HBCU historic properties;
• Provide $60 million a year for 15 to 20 preservation grants based on the need assessment;
• Define “need” to include lack of institutional resources to pay for renovation and physical deterioration of property for lack of use; and
• Allow for the waiving of the matching requirement if a college has an endowment of less than $50 million.Based on a 1998 General Accounting Office (GAO) survey, 712 buildings on 103 HBCU campuses are in need of repairs or structural renovations. Legislation approved in 1996 provided $29 million for restoration of buildings on 12 campuses, but that legislation has expired, according to Clyburn. GAO has pegged the cost of preserving the historic buildings at $755 million.

Landrieu’s bill is S. 3002. Clyburn’s legislation, H.R. 1666, already has gained approval from the House Resources Committee. A companion to that bill, S. 2613, is pending before the Senate’s Natural Resources panel. 

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