Friday | May 7, 2021

ICYMI: Senator Scott and HBCU Caucus Colleagues Fight to Improve HBCU Infrastructure

This week, Senators Scott and Coons, along with Representatives Alma Adams and French Hill, rolled out their IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act. The bill will invest in infrastructure at HBCUs, allowing them to maintain and expand their transformational work.

Learn more about the plan here, and read Senator Scott and Representative Adams’ joint op-ed below.

The Hill: Updating the aging infrastructure in Historically Black Colleges and Universities
U.S. Senator Tim Scott and U.S. Representative Alma Adams
May 6, 2021

A good investment has many characteristics: low risk, high returns, appreciation over time, and positive externalities.

We believe that our bill, the IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act, represents that kind of opportunity for both our Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the American people. The IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act will be one of the most transformative pieces of legislation for Historically Black Colleges and Universities in history.

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. Since Tim joined Congress in 2011 and Alma joined in 2014, we’ve both championed HBCUs. Alma co-founded the first bipartisan Congressional HBCU Caucus in 2015, and we both currently serve as co-chairs. Last Congress, President Trump signed two of our HBCU bills — the FUTURE Act and the HBCU Partners Act — into law.

Why have both parties put in so much effort for just over 100 schools across the country? 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.

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HBCUs have achieved all of this on shoestring budgets. Despite more than a century of underfunding, as well as a lack of access to traditional sources of capital, HBCUs not only survived but thrived, graduating leaders from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Vice President Kamala Harris.

However, a 2018 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed that “HBCUs continue to face challenges in securing financing to undertake needed capital projects” and “these colleges may be unable to make the campus improvements necessary to attract and retain students, potentially jeopardizing their long-term sustainability.” Seventy of seventy-nine HBCUs surveyed reported that 46 percent of their building space needed repair or complete replacement.

These engines of opportunity can’t provide a solid education without a strong foundation, which brings us back to our solution: the Institutional Grants for New Infrastructure, Technology, and Education for HBCU Excellence Act (IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act). This historic investment in HBCUs will rectify decades of disrepair, while creating infrastructure jobs and continuing to ensure academic excellence at these institutions.

The IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act would authorize funds to renovate, modernize, or construct new campus facilities — the sort of brick-and-mortar infrastructure spending the vast majority of Americans support. It funds infrastructure for community-based partnerships that provide students and community members with academic, health, and public services.

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Finally, the Act will ensure the resilience, safety, and sustainability of campus facilities, and it will encourage additional public and private investments in HBCUs. These schools — and their students — will not be able to reach their potential without partnering with the private sector and private donors. And because of the longtime relationships between the private sector and HBCUs, HBCUs are strongly encouraged to seek support from private investment to qualify for funding from our IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act.

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