IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act needs public supportBy Peacemaker Staff and wire reports / September 16, 2021
U.S. Congress woman Dr. Alma Adams with bipartisan support has penned a bill, H.R. 3294, titled: “IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act.” This bill is intended to shore up infrastructure and lead to transformational work at the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Adams says the nation’s HBCU campuses have always been agents of equity, access, and excellence in education, especially for students of color. While only representing roughly three percent of all four-year colleges and universities, HBCUs produce upwards of 17 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to African Americans.Additionally, HBCUs enroll a disproportionately high percentage of first generation and low-income students – nearly 60 percent – and outperforms its peers in supporting and graduating these students.
Stating statistics in support of this bill Adams notes: HBCUs graduate 27 percent of African Americans with bachelor’s degrees in STEM subjects, as well as a significant portion of African Americans with doctorates in science and engineering.
On an annual basis, HBCUs contribute nearly $15 billion to their communities, produce 134,000 jobs, and create $46.8 billion in alumni career earnings that can be directly attributed to their degrees.
Adams added that the incredible success of HBCUs has been achieved despite more than a century of public and private under-funding. Too often, HBCUs are forced to navigate the effects of that under-funding while also lacking access to alternate sources of capital available to other institutions.
Critical infrastructure and modernization is needed in all HBCUs.
A June 2018 Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report identified “extensive and diverse” capital project needs at HBCUs. The report also noted that “HBCUs continue to face challenges in securing financing to undertake needed capital projects” and that “these colleges may be unable to make the campus improvements necessary to attract and retain students, potentially jeopardizing their long-term sustainability.”
Specifically, the GAO found that:
- Seventy of 79 HBCUs surveyed reported that 46 percent of their building space needed repair or complete replacement.
- Eight of the 35 public HBCUs surveyed reported that more than 75 percent of their building space needed repair or replacement.
- Public and private HBCUs reported average deferred maintenance backlogs of $67 million and $17 million respectively, and 30 HBCUs reported that their deferred maintenance backlog had increased from 2015-2017.
- 42 surveyed HBCUs reported having buildings designated as historic, making up an average of 11 percent of their building space, and the Department of the Interior reported in 2018 that HBCUs have historic building rehabilitation needs but lack the resources to address them.
The IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act will provide, if passed, The Institutional Grants for New Infrastructure, Technology, and Education to (IGNITE) HBCUs.
Specifically, the Act provides support for HBCUs to:
- Utilize public and private investments to renovate, repair, modernize, or construct new campus facilities, including instructional, research and residential spaces;
- Preserve buildings with historic significance;
- Ensure the resilience, safety, and sustainability of campus facilities;
- Provide access to campus-wide, reliable high-speed broadband to support digital learning and long-term technological capacity;
- Improving campus facilities to support community-based partnerships that provide students and community members with academic, health, and social services; and
- Procure equipment and technology to facilitate high-quality research and instruction.
Several prominent organizations have endorsed this act including: United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), IBM, Mastercard, Farm Credit, NC Electric Cooperatives, SAP, Dell, Wells Fargo, Visa, TIAA, Micron Technology, Diageo, HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Information Technology Industry Council, Capital One, Adobe, Autodesk, Nielsen, Oracle Corporation, Siemens, Softbank Group.
This legislation is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 96 members of the House of Representatives and 10 members of the U.S, Senate, including Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.) The lead sponsors along with Adams are Rep. French Hill (R-AR) and U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.)