HBCUs Need More Federal Funding

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A new report from the United Negro College Fund, which represents private historically Black colleges and universities, calls on Congress to increase funding to HBCUs. The report argues that the $6.5 billion received by 101 HBCUs from the federal government since the pandemic began still isn’t enough to make up for long-term underfunding.

The report, released Tuesday, shared results from a survey of administrators at 31 UNCF member institutions conducted by the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute, the organization’s research arm, in January and February.

“The goal was to better understand each responding institution’s ability to gain access to federal funds and increased philanthropic donations during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Nadrea Njoku, director of the institute, said in a press release.

Most institutions reported using federal COVID-19 relief dollars on technology to enable remote learning, compensation for lost revenue and expenses already incurred. Most of the campuses—80 percent—also saw increases in donations since March 2020, money that was also predominantly spent on immediate needs, including technology and student tuition relief.

Campus leaders’ focus on pandemic-related expenses “meant that institutions had less money to invest in existing infrastructure,” according to the report. Almost two-thirds of participating institutions reported having more than $5 million in deferred maintenance.

The report noted that both public and private HBCUs experienced steep declines in federal funding per full-time-equivalent student from 2003 to 2015, and these institutions on average have significantly smaller endowments than non-HBCUs.

“HBCUs innovated to embrace remote learning and redirected funds to provide their students with much-needed support,” Lodriguez Murray, senior vice president for public policy and government affairs at UNCF, said in the release. Funding from the federal government and private donors gave HBCUs “a renewed sense of optimism and hard-won resilience.” But for decades, “the federal government has ignored its legally mandated obligations to allocate funding at prescribed levels.”

“My hope is that policymakers, elected representatives and private donors use this report as a fact base to inform their funding decisions and redouble their support for HBCUs,” he added.

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