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AFPI Celebrates HBCU Week

September 8, 2021

By: Javon Price and Gail Wilson

As our nation commemorates HBCU week every second week of September, it’s an opportunity to honor the many achievements of HBCUs and their distinguished alumni.

HBCUs have long served as a place of both refuge and education for Black Americans throughout the United States. The 19th century marked the founding of the nation’s first HBCU, Cheyney University, founded in 1837 in Pennsylvania by Richard Humphreys. During the Reconstruction era, more than a dozen more HBCU’s were founded. Today, HBCU’s boast nearly 20% of all Black graduates—including roughly 80% of Black judges, 50% of Black lawyers and doctors, and 25% of all Black STEM graduates. Most notably, the late NASA engineer Katherine Johnson, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were all alums of our nation’s prolific HBCUs. However, before 2017, HBCUs faced several hurdles despite their illustrious history in the United States.

The Trump Administration came into office with promise of uplifting America’s forgotten men and women. This philosophy also applied to HBCUs which, for so long, were underfunded and forgotten by prior administrations—hence why the past four years saw historic funding for HBCUs. For example, President Trump supported and signed legislation to increase federal funding for HBCUs by 13%, while also signing the FUTURE Act—permanently funding HBCUs and simplifying the FASFA application. Without legislation like the examples above, HBCUs were projected to face a $255 million fiscal cliff, which could have resulted in damning consequences for such impactful institutions of higher education. Additionally, the administration ended the discriminatory restrictions that prevented faith-based HBCUs from accessing federal support. The Trump Administration also moved to the federal HBCU initiative office back into the White House after the Obama Administration denied their requests. However, the Trump Administration realized that there was more to be done than simply increasing the funding of HBCUs, as many were plagued with massive sums of debt.

Under President Trump, the federal government forgave more than $300 million in outstanding debt for four schools impacted by natural disasters and provided an additional $10 million to defer loan payments for six school facing financial hardships. Additionally, through the Capital Financing Program, the Trump Administration provided more than $500 million in loans to HBCUs. Lastly, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump signed legislation that provided $1 billion to HBCUs as their respective campuses battled the coronavirus.

The Trump Administration’s commitment to helping HBCUs support more young Black scholars are sure to have extensive benefits for generations to come. Let us celebrate these institutions of higher learning that are woven into the very fabric of our great nation and have produced some of America’s most beloved statemen and women.

Javon Price serves as a Policy Analyst, Center for Opportunity Now; Center for Second Chances; and Center for American Security and Gail Wilson serves as an Engagement Officer for the America First Policy Institute (AFPI).