A bipartisan bill co-sponsored by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams would direct money to renovate and modernize buildings at more than 100 of the nation’s historic Black colleges and universities.
Scott and Adams, who was a former professor at Bennett College, wrote an opinion piece for The Hill in which they said the bill — called the IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act — represents a good investment in HBCUs and the American people.
The bill would help schools preserve buildings on their campuses with historical significance and provide high-speed internet and support for virtual teaching. Additionally, support for community health services and coronavirus vaccinations are included in the package.
“HBCUs have always been agents of excellence in education for students of color. They’re a smart enough investment to bring the two of us, a Republican senator and a Democratic congresswoman, together as lead sponsors,” they wrote.
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They say the investment is justified because “what HBCUs lack in terms of big budgets and enormous endowments, they make up for in real results. On an annual basis, HBCUs contribute nearly $15 billion to their communities, produce 134,000 jobs, and create $46.8 billion in alumni career earnings that can be directly attributed to their degrees.”
Adams told The Charlotte Observer that in her years as a professor at Bennett College, which is located in Greensboro, N.C., she often taught in classrooms that did not have air conditioning.
“That’s not unique to any one of our institutions,” said Adams, a North Carolina Democrat who founded the HBCU Caucus in Congress. “It’s something that we see on many of the campuses.”
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The amount of funds allocated to the IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act is not detailed, however, Adams said the cost of the legislation would be subject to “compromise” and conversations with other lawmakers involved in congressional appropriations.
In a statement of support, Democratic Delaware Sen. Chris Coons said, “Funding for HBCUs is critical to providing educational resources for low-income students, first-generation college students and those most at risk of not entering college.”
HBCUs are responsible for nearly 20% of all African American college graduates and nearly 25% of African Americans with a STEM degree.
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