The nation’s HBCUs took center stage in legislative matters recently, as members of the Congressional Black Caucus, with the aid of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), sought to more fully stabilize the schools’ resources and viability.
One piece of legislation addressed the fate of more than 700 historic buildings on campuses in jeopardy of being rendered uninhabitable unless support from the U.S. Senate arrives.
Mansion at Tougaloo College in outside Jackson, Mississippi is in need of repair and restoration. (Courtesy Photo)
According to UNCF, the passing of H.R. 295 by the Senate would reauthorize $10 million annually through 2023 for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Historic Preservation Program. The bill passed the House on Sept. 12 and is now before the Senate.
“HBCUs have a significant place in American history and provide incredible value and values to minority and low-income students, and to the communities in which they reside,” said Cheryl Smith, UNCF senior vice president of Public Policy and Government Affairs in a report. “The HBCU Historic Preservation Program serves an essential purpose to HBCUs, which have a special place in the fabric of American history, culture and education. We look forward to working with the Senate to ensure final passage before the 114th Congress adjourns.”
Many HBCUs have buildings and sites on their campuses that have existed for more than a century that have fallen into disrepair or have deteriorated and are at risk of being lost completely if not preserved and protected.
Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), a proud HBCU alumnus, was steadfast as he shepherded this important bill across the finish line. “HBCUs are national treasures, and the recent vote puts us one step closer to securing the needed resources to support the restoration of a backlog of more than 700 historic buildings on HBCU campuses,” he said. “In 1998, at the request of the Congressional Black Caucus, the U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO) surveyed 103 HBCU campuses to identify the historically significant sites on these campuses and project the cost of restoring and preserving these properties. The GAO identified 712 historic buildings and sites, and projected a cost of $755 million to restore and preserve them. I have seen the transformative effect of these historic preservation grants on HBCU campuses in my district and across the country.”
Additionally, the HBCU legislation would address racial discrimination in higher education bond markets through the HBCU Investment Expansion Act. This legislation would allow municipal bonds issued by Black colleges triple tax-exempt status (local, state, and federal).
The study, “What’s in a (School) Name? Racial Discrimination in Higher Education Bond Markets” found that HBCUs paid more in underwriting fees to issue tax-exempt bonds, compared to similar, non-HBCU schools. HBCUs spent about $5.1 million more in total, for bond placement than White institutions with the same credit rating. The HBCU Investment Expansion Act is one of several bills that UNCF Federal Policy and Advocacy team is lobbying for in order to boost private and public investment in HBCU campuses.