Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Doug Jones (D-AL) on Thursday pressed for $1.5 billion in emergency funding to help historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
The senators join leaders of HBCUs, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), who earlier this week also lobbied Congress for a one-time allocation of $1.5 billion to help HBCUs and MSIs during the coronavirus crisis. Leaders of the country’s 105 HBCUs and the UNCF and the TMCF said that the costs of operating during the pandemic threaten their future survival.
In the past weeks, several of these under-resourced institutions have covered expenses for students from low-income families who have had to leave campus and go back home. They have also had to make a shift to online learning so students’ academics don’t suffer during the stoppage of in-person classes in an effort to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. This has meant additional investment in expensive technological infrastructure as well as Wi-Fi hotspots for students without access to the internet at home. As it is, many HBCUs and MSIs struggle financially because they have smaller or no endowments, lower levels of federal funding and relatively fewer alumni donations.
Booker and Jones wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate appropriators to include the $1.5 billion in emergency funding for HBCUs and MSIs in the Senate’s third supplemental appropriations package — under Title III, Part A and B, Title V and Title VII of the Higher Education Act — in response to COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
“Title III and V and VII institutions are a refuge for the communities of students that they serve, and in these uncertain times they are needed now more than ever,” the senators said in their letter. “Assuring an increase in funding for Title III and V will allow these schools to continue operating without fear of going bankrupt or having to raise tuition next year.”