News Analysis Oct 10, 2021 5:25 PM EST

Status of 'Build Back Better' funding for black colleges unclear, but definitely less than promised

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that Biden catered to during the 2020 elections are getting financially shafted with the deal.

Status of 'Build Back Better' funding for black colleges unclear, but definitely less than promised
Nick Monroe Cleveland, Ohio

The only constant known for sure in the ongoing negotiations over the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill is that the black community is ending up with less than they were promised.

Exact dollar amounts are lost in the confusion of the Biden administration.

If you were to look at a local story like that on WDRB in Kentucky, you’d find black students at the historically black college Simmons College of Kentucky (an HBCUs) upset with President Biden proposing "nearly $30 billion" in cuts for HBCUs in his budget reconciliation bill.

For a point of reference, President Biden’s campaign promise in early 2020 when he promised nearly $70 billion in funding for HBCUs on the campaign trail.

A BNC News report from late September said President Biden initially promised $55 billion and it was whittled down to $30.5 billion when it went to Congress.

In response to recent stories on the issue, White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre pushed back saying Biden’s Build Back Better plan "prioritizes funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities at historic levels and that has not changed."

The majority of the fact sheet published on Saturday goes over past and present efforts by the Biden administration when it comes to funding HBCUs. Under the bulletpoints of the "Ensuring Continued Support for HBCUs through the Build Back Better Plan" header, the dollar amounts listed add up to at least $45 billion to fund HBCU-related proposals.

The White House’s page does not make it clear if the numbers listed in the White House fact sheet survived the negotiation process over the $3.5 trillion bill thus far, in Congress.

For that we have to turn to an Associated Press report from earlier this week.

According to AP: "The latest iteration of the bill includes just $2 billion that can go toward educational programs and infrastructure for Black colleges, and even that amount would be reduced to competitive grant funding rather than direct allocations."

Does that mean $2 billion overall for HBCUs? It's a question the Biden administration ought to answer, soon.

At a later point in the report quoted Democrat Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia with his pitch of a draft bill that "includes $27 billion for student aid at Black colleges and other institutions serving racial minorities. Still, he acknowledged the need for more funding."

But it’s unclear if that’s something in the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan or something else entirely.

The only thing anyone can say for sure is that the leadership at HBCUs are not happy with the situation.

Kevin Cosby, president of Simmons College of Kentucky, doesn’t want government money being lumped in with state universities that aren’t exclusively minority focused.

"To mix them with minority-serving institutions, which are are not historic institutions that do not have the legacy of historic discrimination, is not right. Historically Black colleges and universities should be separated as a protected class of institutions because, like the Black community, our experience in the United States of America is a unique experience."

Negotiations in Congress over funding are expected to continue in the weeks and months ahead.

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