President Donald Trump took credit on Thursday for a bipartisan bill that will permanently provide more than $250 million a year to the country’s historically Black colleges and universities and other institutions that serve large proportions of students of color.
The legislation includes $850 million over the next 10 years specifically for HBCUs.
Funding lapsed on Sept. 30 after Congress failed to renew it. The bill restores $255 million in annual funding that some schools had started preparing to do without, KUTV reported. This included deep cuts and anticipated staff layoffs.
Signing the bill, Trump said HBCUs have “never had better champions in the White House.”
Almost every year until now, HBCU funding has been used as a bargaining chip, John Burnett wrote for Black Enterprise. It has been punted by each chamber of Congress until a deal is reached.
Earlier in December, the Senate passed a historic bill by unanimous consent to permanently fund HBCUs. The House passed a similar bill in November. “Funding for HBCUs shall never be in question again,” wrote Burnett, a resident of Harlem and a strategic advisor to the New York Republican State Committee.
The bipartisan bill is known as the FUTURE Act (Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education) and will provide HBCUs and other institutions with a minimum of $255 million annually — $85 million of it earmarked for HBCUs. That sounds like a lot, but there are 101 HBCUs with more than 298,000 students enrolled at the start of the 2017-2018 academic year, according to HBCU Digest.
The bipartisan compromise added an amendment that will simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA — the form that college students fill out to determine if they’re eligible for financial aid.
The legislation will allow the Education Department to gather certain information directly from the IRS, eliminating up to 22 of the 108 questions on the form, AP reported. It’s also meant to simplify verification for some families to make sure they provide the same information to the IRS and to the Education Department — “a bureaucratic nightmare that 5.5 million students go through annually,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
The legislation is a “Christmas present for college students and their families,” the Republican senator said.
“Today we are sending an important message of support for our HBCUs and showing in no uncertain terms that we believe they are vital to our system of higher education,” said Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., in a press release after the legislation passed on Dec. 10.
The FUTURE Act guarantees more than $2.5 billion for institutions serving Black students and students of color for the next 10 years including $850 million specifically for HBCUs, Trump said in a statement announcing the signing.
“A few months ago, funding for HBCUs was in jeopardy. But the White House came together and reached a historic agreement,” Trump said.
Written by Dana Sanchez