HBCU funding reaches historic high of over $16 billion

BY Preta Peace Namasaba May 21, 2024 5:26 AM EDT
Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo credit: Council on Foreign Relations

The Biden-Harris Administration has announced unprecedented federal funding and investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), totaling more than $16 billion. This marks a significant increase from an initial $7 billion allocation for these institutions. According to a statement from the White House, this demonstrates the administration’s dedication to promoting racial equity, economic opportunity, and educational excellence.

“These historic funding levels demonstrate the Administration’s ongoing commitment to HBCUs, which serve as an engine for upward economic mobility in our country. The Administration is also focused on work to ensure HBCUs have the resources to provide a high-quality postsecondary education,” said a press release from the White House.

Although HBCUs represent only 3% of colleges and universities, they play a fundamental role in supporting the economic mobility of African Americans. HBCUs produce 40% of all Black engineers, 50% of all Black teachers, 70% of all Black doctors and dentists, and 80% of all Black judges. Kamala Harris, the first woman and Black Vice President of the United States is an HBCU graduate. According to social mobility research by the United Negro College Fund, HBCUs support nearly five times more students than Ivy League and other top-ranked institutions in facilitating movement from the bottom 40% of U.S. household income to the top 60%.

In its historic actions to support HBCUs, the Biden-Harris Administration has re-established the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It has invested over $11.4 billion in HBCUs including nearly $4 billion through the American Rescue Plan and other COVID relief legislation, $2.6 billion from the Department of Education, over $1.6 billion through Federal grants, and $1.6 billion in capital finance debt relief for 45 public and private HBCUs. The administration has also provided almost $950 million to support HBCUs in growing research capacity, nearly $719 million in grant funding to expand STEM academic capacity and educational programs, and over $150 million in Federal contracting opportunities awarded to HBCUs.

In addition to the over $11 billion provided to HBCUs, the Administration has provided over $4 billion to support the success of HBCU-enrolled students. This includes $2.8 billion in need-based grants and other Federal programs and nearly $1.3 billion to support Veterans attending HBCUs through the GI Bill and other college, graduate school, and training programs delivered through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Departments of Defense U.S. Air Force, Commerce, Agriculture, Energy, and others have established programs to advance the growth of HBCUs.

“As a proud graduate of Howard University, I know firsthand that our HBCUs are centers of academic excellence. For generations, these anchors of our communities have played a pivotal role in building and contributing to America’s leadership at home and abroad. We know that when we invest in the success of our HBCUs, we are investing in the strength of our Nation -– today and for generations to come,” said Vice President Kamala Harris.

These historic funding levels have been the most by any administration despite HBCUs playing a vital role in the educational landscape for 180 years. A CEA report details how HBCU successes such as advancing intergenerational economic mobility for Black families and communities have occurred in the context of historic underfunding. Recently, there has been a significant increase in applications and enrollment in HBCUs, indicating the high value that students currently place on these institutions.

The White House says it aims to re-engage Black and young voters as they seek reelection this year.