Senate Education Chairman Blocks FUTURE Act for Minority-Serving Institutions

The chairman of the United States Senate Education Committee, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), refused to approve a bill that would renew more than $250 million in federal funding for Minority-Serving institutions (MSIs) yesterday, according to The Washington Post.

The FUTURE Act, which stands for Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education, was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week. It is set to expire at the end of September and higher education advocates have been pressuring Congress for bipartisan approval before the impending deadline.

During a senate debate on Thursday, Alexander said he wants to incorporate funding for MSIs, which include HBCUS, Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and Tribal Colleges and Universities, as part of broader legislation known as the Higher Education Act (HEA), The Post reports.

The HEA is long overdue for reauthorization; typically, it is updated every four to six years, and its last official passage was in 2008. Yet advocates for MSIs are concerned that this process would involve considerable disagreement along party lines and result in the delay of much-needed funding for institutions that educate many of the nation’s most marginalized students.

Harry L. Williams, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, told The Post that “recent congressional history” indicates that the HEA legislation would not be approved by the end of September.

Established in 2008, FUTURE primarily provides money for STEM programs at MSIs across the country. It also supports campus improvements and scholarships for disadvantaged students.

Ginger O’Donnell is a senior staff writer for INSIGHT Into Diversity.