HBCU Day of Action Seeks to Build Support for Black Institutions, Hold Lawmakers Accountable

capitol congress hearing subcommittee on higher education
National Capitol

On Thursday, alumni, students, and leaders of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) will convene in Washington, D.C., to urge lawmakers to do more to support HBCUs.

Referred to as the HBCU Day of Action, the rally was organized by the HBCU Collective, a group of HBCU alumni and students who advocate for policies to preserve the history of and grow historically black institutions. The event, which will also include a press conference with HBCU leaders and lawmakers, will focus on advocating for increased financial support for students, access to and funding for federal research grants, and funding and assistance for facility upgrades.

“Alumni and students play an integral role in preserving and growing our HBCUs,” co-leader of the HBCU Collective Robert Stephens, a graduate of Winston-Salem State University, said in a statement. “We’re here to make sure our elected officials see and feel the importance of HBCUs — and we’re here to hold them accountable for their support.”

In addition to featuring leaders of the HBCU Collective, the press conference will include speakers such as Michael Sorrell, EdD, JD, president of Paul Quinn College in Texas; David Wilson, EdD, president of Morgan State University in Maryland; Congresswoman Alma Adams, co-chair of the bipartisan HBCU Caucus; Congressman Cedric Richmond, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; and Howard University student Tiffany Brockington.

Believing strongly in the mission of HBCUs and with a desire to address some of the many challenges faced by these institutions, the HBCU Collective is committed to “improving the conditions of [the] institutions, providing students with opportunities to greatly improve their lives, and preserving the history and culture of the HBCU community,” according to the HBCU Collective Policy Toolkit. To achieve these objectives, the group is focusing on three areas: easing the burden caused by federal loans; providing STEM-related resources and support; and strengthening academic, financial, and administrative capabilities and providing technology upgrades.

• To meet these ends, the collective is requesting that Congress.

• Increase federal Pell Grant awards for FY17 to $5,935 and for FY18 to $6,072

• Restore the year-round Pell Grant program and summer awards for FY17 to $1,650 and for FY18 to $1,683

• Authorize that student loan interest rates be tied to rates for the U.S. Federal Reserve

• Protect the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program indefinitely and allow alumni and students of HBCUs to join the program regardless of whether they enter into an occupation in the private or public sector

• Authorize federal agencies to award 3 percent of federal grants supporting STEM efforts to HBCUs

• Reauthorize the Minority-Serving Institution Digital and Wireless Technology Opportunity Program ($500 million allocated for the next two years)

• Ensure federal funding for Title III that supports HBCUs

“We care about the existence of our institutions, and we are going to make sure elected officials do exactly what they promised, and that is to support our HBCUs and their students financially,” Dominique Warren, co-leader of the HBCU Collective, told the Albany Herald.