NAICU Washington Update

Pressure Building to Pass Funding Extension for HBCUs

November 08, 2019

Democrats in the U.S. Senate continue to apply pressure to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to allow passage of legislation to extend an annual $255 million funding stream to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The bill, known as the FUTURE Act, passed the House of Representatives by voice vote in September, yet has been blocked in the Senate on multiple occasions by Sen. Alexander who hopes to use it as a means to jumpstart broader negotiations on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).
While the authorization for the HBCU funding stream expired on September 30, 2019, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sent a letter to lawmakers explaining that because grants for the 2019-2020 academic year had already been distributed prior to the deadline that schools will not be affected by a funding lapse until the current grants expire at the end of the calendar year.
Recently, 36 senators penned a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) calling on the Senate to immediately pass the FUTURE Act. Additionally, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) held a press conference attended by several high-ranking Senate Democrats and the presidents of several HBCUs and their representative associations in order to continue to highlight the importance of the issue.
It is unclear at this time whether Sen. Alexander will continue to use the FUTURE Act as a bargaining chip, or whether he will allow the two-year funding extension to eventually pass. The passage or failure of the FUTURE Act will continue to have broader implications for HEA reauthorization and will be watched very closely.

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