Biden-Harris Administration Highlights A Record of Championing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

By: U.S. Department of Education

In his Executive Order reestablishing the White House Initiative (Initiative) on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), President Joe Biden charged the Initiative to, “develop new and expand pre-existing national networks of individuals, organizations, and communities to share and implement administrative and programmatic best practices related to advancing educational equity, excellence, and opportunity at HBCUs.”

This week, the Initiative hosted the annual National HBCU Week Conference, the nation’s premier convening of HBCU leaders. The event provides a unique occasion for over 2,300 registered representatives from HBCUs, federal agencies, private-sector companies, philanthropic organizations, and others to discuss opportunities to advance educational equity, improve instruction, support degree completion, and deepen federal engagement—all of which strengthen the role of HBCUs. The achievements of HBCU graduates speak to the value of these institutions, which foster academic excellence and emphasize campus cultures grounded in community and inclusion. Despite representing only 3% of colleges and universities, HBCU graduates play an outsized role in supporting the economic mobility of African Americans, producing:

  • 40 percent of all Black engineers
  • 50 percent of all Black teachers
  • 70 percent of all Black doctors and dentists
  • 80 percent of all Black judges
  • The first woman and Black and South Asian Vice President of the United States

For more than 180 years, HBCUs have raised the bar for equity, access, and excellence, creating doors of opportunity for Black students where none previously existed. The Biden-Harris Administration views HBCUs as central to our vision of a more inclusive, equitable, and valuable higher education system. The Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic actions to support HBCUs, including by:

Investing over $7 billion in HBCUs, which includes:

  • $3.6 billion for HBCUs through the American Rescue Plan and other COVID relief.
  • $1.6 billion in capital finance debt relief for 45 public and private HBCUs.
  • $1.7 billion in grant funding to expand academic capacity and provide support for low-income students.

Supporting HBCUs, the students they enroll, and a diverse teacher workforce in the 2022 and 2023 spending packages, which include securing:

  • New flexibilities for minority-serving institutions to use Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund dollars to invest in renovations, construction, and other infrastructure needs related to the pandemic;
  • A combined $900 increase to Pell Grants—the largest increase in a decade—bringing the maximum award to $7,395, which is critical to the approximately 75 percent of HBCU students who rely on Pell Grants to afford college;
  • A new $50 million grant program focused on supporting research and development infrastructure and capacity for HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and MSIs;
  • A $758 million investment for HBCU institutional development; and
  • First-time grants for the Augustus Hawkins Centers of Excellence to strengthen and diversify the teaching profession to help close opportunity gaps, including $1.56 million going to an HBCU.

Drawing attention to funding inequities for 1890 land-grant institutions.

  • U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack sent letters to 16 governors emphasizing the over $12 billion disparity in funding between land-grant HBCUs and their non-HBCU land-grant peers in their states that occurred between 1987 and 2020. This disparity has:
    • Forced many HBCUs to operate with inadequate resources and delayed investments in campus infrastructure, student support, research development, and more;
    • This resulted in states failing to live up to their legal obligations to provide equitable funding to HBCUs, resulting in funding gaps from $172 million to $2.1 billion; and
    • Reinforced the importance of equitably funding HBCUs and the talented, diverse students and communities they serve so they may reach their full potential and continue driving innovation.

Supporting HBCUs facing violence:

  • The U.S. Department of Education ensured HBCUs affected by more than a dozen bomb threats in 2022 were able to secure over $2.4 million in Project SERV funds— grants to help schools and colleges recover from a violent or traumatic event. The Department worked with HBCUs and across the federal government to:
    • Direct Project SERV funds help restore safe learning environments and invest in mental health for students; and
    • Develop a compendium of federal programs to help institutions respond to bomb threats.

The U.S. Department of Education is proud to be a part of a whole-of-government approach to pioneering brand new programs in support of HBCUs, including:

  • U.S. Air Force’s first-ever HBCU-led University Affiliated Research Center (UARC), led by Howard University with 7 other HBCUs and funded at $90 million over five years.
  • Department of Commerce’s first-ever Connecting-Minority-Communities program delivers funding for 43 HBCUs to purchase broadband internet, equipment, and IT personnel.
  • Department of Transportation announced Prairie View A&M University in Texas as the first-ever HBCU to lead a University Transportation Center. Prairie View A&M, with 11 other HBCUs, was among 34 schools to receive a portion of a $435 million grant for the development of interoperable technology systems.
  • Department of Energy’s first-ever Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research (FAIR) Program provides over $35 million to build research capacity, infrastructure, and expertise at institutions historically excluded from federal research and development.
  • National Science Foundation’s new efforts to break down barriers in STEM such as:
    • The Growing Research Access for Nationally Transformative Equity and Diversity (GRANTED) program encourages transformative ideas and scalable models to break down barriers to federal grants and other resources for emerging research and minority-serving institutions; and
  • NASA’s new pioneering efforts to close opportunity gaps in STEM, including nearly $12 million for eight HBCUs to support programs in artificial intelligence and machine learning and create a more diverse pipeline of talent for “data-intensive space-based Earth sciences” careers.
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