U.S. Senator Tina Smith, 37 Colleagues Lead Push to Renew Lapsed Funding for Minority-Serving Colleges

WASHINGTON, D.C. [11/06/19]U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and 37 of her Senate colleagues are leading a push to pass funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal colleges, and other minority-serving institutions. 

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Smith, along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and their colleagues, called for the immediate passage of the FUTURE Act, which would reauthorize $255 million in mandatory federal funding for these institutions, and expired on September 30, 2019. The House of Representatives approved the legislation unanimously in September.

“Minnesota’s Tribal Colleges are important institutions and serve as key resources for Native American students, and minority-serving institutions of higher education serve nearly 6 million students nationwide,” said Sen. Smith. “But this September, just as the school year was starting, the Senate failed to approve annual funding that benefits these schools—funding that’s gone through in years past without issue. That’s wrong and it needs to be fixedI’m pressing Senate Leadership to take up a vote as soon as possible.”

Full text of the letter is below:

November 4, 2019 

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

We write today to respectfully request immediate Senate consideration of the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act. This important bipartisan legislation would reauthorize funding for Title III, Part F of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which provides mandatory funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and other minority serving-institutions (MSIs). Mandatory funding benefiting these institutions lapsed on September 30, 2019.

HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs are an essential component of America’s higher education and workforce development system. MSIs serve nearly 6 million students, accounting for more than one-quarter of all undergraduates across the nation. These institutions enroll a significant share of all students of color. For example, HSIs account for nearly 15 percent of all non-profit colleges and universities, but enroll two-thirds of all Hispanic students. Also, while HBCUs only comprise 8.5 percent of all four-year institutions, they enroll, on average, 24 percent of all black undergraduates pursuing a bachelor’s degree, graduate 26 percent of all black bachelor’s degrees, and graduate 32 percent of STEM degrees earned by black students. The student population across all TCUs is 78 percent American Indian and Alaska Native. Similarly, these schools disproportionately enroll low-income students – more than 75 percent of students at HBCUs and 90 percent of students at TCUs receive Pell Grants, compared to only 32 percent of all students. 

Title III, Part F funding is critical to ensuring these institutions are able to best serve their students. This funding is used for an array of purposes across campuses. Many schools use these funds to improve student services and academic programs like counseling, tutoring, mentoring, and STEM and career training programs. Numerous institutions use the funding to perform technology maintenance and expansion in order to provide students with up-to-date technology and vital learning opportunities such as computer labs, research institutes, and educational experiences. Others put the investment toward capital improvements like constructing affordable housing, renovating facilities, and creating learning spaces for students. All told, the Title III, Part F funding is a lifeline for these institutions to strengthen their academic, administrative, and fiscal capacities.

The bipartisan FUTURE Act will allow HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs across the country to keep their doors open and continue to generate more opportunities for their students, disproportionate percentages of whom are for the low-income students and students of color. This funding stream plays a vital role in increasing institutional capacity at MSIs and in generating more opportunities for students of color to attain degrees in STEM fields and secure good-paying jobs, generating a strong economic impact. HBCUs, for example, have created over 134,000 jobs and have produced over $10 billion in gross regional product and a total annual economic impact of nearly $15 billion. 

Unfortunately, funding for this program lapsed due to Senate inaction last month. The House of Representatives passed the FUTURE Act by a voice vote last month. Given the importance of this funding to hundreds of institutions and millions of students, we request that the Senate delay no longer and take up the bipartisan FUTURE Act immediately to avoid permanent damage to our nation’s historic colleges.