Passage of 2016 Omnibus Appropriation Buys Time for HBCUs and PBIs; NAFEO Will Not Rest However, Until Congressional & State Appropriations Reflect Criticality of HBCUs & PBIs to American State, National & Global Competitiveness
The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), the nation’s membership and advocacy association for the 106 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and more than 50 Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), is pleased that the 114th Congress voted to fund the federal government through September 30, 2016. NAFEO extends its gratitude to the Members of Congress who supported the Omnibus Appropriations bill in spite of its many shortcomings. We are especially appreciative of the bipartisan support for HBCU and PBI funding in the bill, reminiscent of the bipartisan support HBCUs received in the United States Congress from 1965 until very recent years, with leadership from Democratic and Republican Congressional Black Caucus members, bipartisan House and Senate leadership, education, scientific, agricultural, defense, and other appropriators. NAFEO will not rest, however, until congressional and state appropriations reflect the criticality of HBCUs and PBIs to the realization of important national, state, community, international, educational, economic, scientific, entrepreneurial, artistic, agricultural, health and human needs, peace, security and justice goals.
NAFEO is heartened that rather than using as political levers students and families of least advantage; colleges and universities educating disproportionate percentages of the growing populations of the nation with tremendous successes in the high need disciplines, such as HBCUs and PBIs; students whose families have fewer means or are first generation, racial or ethnic minorities in pipeline or student support programs through college; students in need of food, nutrition, and healthcare to ensure an early start, healthy start, head start and college completion; small and disadvantaged businesses; entrepreneurs; others preparing for the labor force who desire internships or apprenticeships; and so many other Americans whose absence from full participation in the legal economy of the nation will have an adverse impact on wages, public finances, and the security of our communities and our nation, Congress chose to fund the government for the next nine months.
NAFEO is especially pleased about the increase for a wide range of education programs in the Omnibus, most notably, the $23M additional dollars HBCUs and PBIs will receive for undergraduate and graduate program support from the Department of Education; $1.7M additional dollars the 1890 land-grant institutions (historically black agricultural universities) will receive for research and extension; $3M additional dollars for the HBCU Undergraduate Program, and critical funding for minority health, the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities, the Health Careers Opportunity Program, Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Minority Health (REACH) and others.
The increases in support for HBCUs and PBIs are important steps toward freeing these institutions to plan and budget for the next nine (9) months, to build on core curricula, innovative academic, student support, teaching and learning, outcome measurement, and community engagement initiatives. They are inadequate, however, to move the needle from inequality in higher education funding toward equitable funding. HBCUs will only receive a fair share of American tax dollars when congressional and state appropriations reflect the centrality of HBCUs and PBIs to the realization of important American goals: education, economic, entrepreneurial, ecumenical, security and justice goals, to name a few. HBCUs are just 3% of American colleges and universities, but they are graduating in excess of 40% of African American STEM professionals, more than 50% of African American educational professionals, and 60% of African American health professionals.
As the 2016 Omnibus was being inked, a Hechinger Report revealed, as have many other reports from respected non-partisan research institutes over the past decades, that as the states are becoming more diverse, the nation’s flagship institutions—“large, taxpayer-funded institutions whose declared mission is to educate residents of their states — enroll far smaller proportions of black students than other colleges, and the number appears to be declining, according to federal records and college enrollment data analyzed by The Hechinger Report and The Huffington Post.” Thomas G. Mortenson, Senior Scholar at The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, has documented this pattern for more than fifteen years.
During the nine months under the Omnibus, NAFEO will educate the American public through its diverse stakeholders and partners about the centrality of HBCUs to American progress and its global competitiveness. NAFEO will push the debate in policymaking, political campaigns and other policy shaping venues through surrogates and supporters in Congress and state legislatures until America recognizes the criticality of HBCUs to future success and justice in America, that HBCUs R US, and congressional and state appropriations reflect this understanding.