President Donald Trump on Thursday signed a bipartisan bill that will permanently provide more than $250 million a year to the nation’s historically black colleges and universities, along with dozens of other institutions that serve large shares of minority students.
In signing the bill, Trump said historically black schools have “never had better champions in the White House.”
“When I took office, I promised to fight for HBCUs, and my administration continues to deliver,” Trump said. “A few months ago, funding for HBCUs was in jeopardy. But the White House and Congress came together and reached a historic agreement.”
Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, thanked Trump and the thousands of advocates who lobbied Congress to support the bill.
“We enlisted more than 20,000 supporters to write and call their members of Congress,” Lomax said. “This activated army of advocates became the frontline of support for HBCUs, and they won the battle for our institutions.”
The bill restores $255 million in annual funding that lapsed Sept. 30 after Congress failed to renew it. Facing an end to the funding, some schools had started planning for deep cuts, with some telling staff their jobs or programs would be eliminated.
But lawmakers in the Senate recently reached a bipartisan deal that saved the funding. Their 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 their eligibility for financial aid.
The legislation will allow the Education Department to gather certain information directly from the IRS, which will eliminate up to 22 of the 108 questions on the form. It’s also meant to curb a verification process some families face to make sure they provided the same information to the IRS and to the Education Department.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate’s education committee, called the legislation a “Christmas present for college students and their families.”
“This bipartisan provision stops families from having to give their same tax information to the federal government twice – first to the IRS, then again to the U.S. Department of Education,” Alexander said. “It should eliminate most of the so-called ‘verification’ process, which is a bureaucratic nightmare that 5.5 million students go through annually.”
The legislation, known as the Future Act, also drew praise from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who called it a “historic bill” that reflects the administration’s commitment to students.