While the U.S. House of Representatives spent much of this week focused on the impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump for alleged acts of self-promotion and obstruction, the Senate moved on a piece of historic legislation that will provide a sigh of relief and sustainability for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
On Tuesday, the Senate approved passage of the FUTURE Act, a bipartisan bill that will provide $255 million annually to HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions. The Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act not only provides for funding to HBCUs but includes other benefits. The bill will also simplify the process for applying for financial aid by reducing the paperwork that accompanies the FAFSA by eliminating 22 questions from the 108 questions which it currently includes. The bill will also eliminate paperwork for the 7.7 million federal student loan borrowers currently on income-driven repayment plans by automating income recertification.
It was almost hit or miss beginning in September when federal funding for HBCUs expired. The four HBCUs in Maryland are already embroiled in a 13-year battle with lawmakers claiming the four universities have not been funded fairly or at the same level of the white institutions. So, while the battle in Maryland still continues, HBCUs across the country are applauding the Senate, led by Senate Education Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) for pushing this bill forward.
“It’s hard to think of a piece of legislation that would have more of a lasting impact on minority students and their families than this bill,” Alexander said in a statement. “First, it provides permanent funding for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions attended by over two million minority students. Second, it takes a big first step in simplifying the FAFSA for 20 million American families, including eight million minority students, and eliminating the bureaucratic nightmare created by requiring students to give the federal government the same information twice.”
It’s good to know that the work of Congress is not at a standstill and that the FUTURE Act also passed in the House. It is clear that the needs of Americans who can have a positive impact on the future of education, the workforce and this country are not being ignored. It’s also good news that bipartisanship still exists. The final step for authorization of this bill rests in the hands of President Trump.