“We’ve done more with less forever, and the promises made must be kept,” said Lodriguez V. Murray, senior vice president of public policy and government affairs at the United Negro College Fund, who represents private black colleges. “The president did his part, and now if Congress doesn’t act, it will not only be heartbreaking, but it will continue to demoralize our community.”
Poor funding levels have also created divisions within the party, threatening the razor-thin margin in Congress that Democrats are already fighting to preserve. Representative Alma Adams, Democrat of North Carolina, threatened to vote against the house plan if HBCUs do not receive more funding. In order to push the bill past unanimous Republican opposition, Democrats are using an expedited budget process known as reconciliation, which means they must retain the support of all Democratic senators and all representatives except three.
In an interview, Ms Adams, who also runs the bipartisan HBCU Caucuses, said her mother, a domestic worker, never graduated from high school and that attending North Carolina A&T, an HBCU, allowed her to walk the halls of Congress. She also taught at another HBCU, Bennett College, for 40 years, most of it in classrooms without air conditioning.
“If we’re serious about investing in our country’s infrastructure, we need to invest in the places that elevate the most underserved, and that’s HBCUs,” Ms. Adams said. “It’s the same as when we talk about ruined roads and buildings; we also collapsed on these campuses.
The roughly 100 schools, born out of slavery and segregation, make up 3% of all colleges and universities, but produce about 25% of African American graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The schools also reportedly produced about 80% black judges, 70% black doctors, 50% black teachers, and more than 40% black members of Congress.