By: LaRey Wright
The battle over how to federally fund Historically Black Colleges and Universities is leaving these institutions hanging in the balance. On October 1, the current funding for HBCU’s expired when Congress failed to extend it. These finances are used for faculty and curriculum development, campus infrastructure improvements and student services. Without proper funding it could cause major cutbacks, such as faculty layoffs and the end of many desirable clubs and programs.
Legendary universities like Howard, Spellman and Norfolk State University, are an educational safe haven for students who have historically faced discrimination. At HBCU’s minority students are a part of the majority and they are free to explore their individuality and creativity without fear of scrutiny. Depending on the outcome of the debate these students may be forced to transfer.
The conflict in Congress has gone on for months with neither contender conceding to their competitor. On one side, House Democrats propose a temporary 2-year program that will set students and staff at ease while Congress comes to an agreement. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says the bill “is a short cut the House took that has no way of passing the Senate”.
On the contrary, many House Republicans would like to get this matter cleared up permanently, by making revisions to the Higher Education Act, which has not been revised in 10 years.
“Every day that passes without a renewal, these schools are one day closer to having to make very tough decisions that could do permanent damage,” says Alabama Senator Doug Jones, who accuses republicans of holding these institutions hostage by biding time.
Secretary of Education Betsy Devos has affirmed that the department has enough reserves dedicated to HBCU’s to last until the end of the fiscal year, September of next year. That gives Congress less than one year to come to an agreement that will save these indispensable institutions.