The U.S. Senate approved a piece of bipartisan legislation on Feb. 12 that aims to strengthen partnerships between federal agencies and the country's more than 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The bill, informally known as the HBCU PARTNERS Act, was introduced by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. A companion bill was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Alma Adams, D-N.C., and U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C.
Coons said HBCUs open higher education to new generations of students.
"I’m proud to make sure that federal agencies actively work to support HBCUs’ critical missions," he said.
This piece of legislation is designed to build on President Donald Trump’s 2017 executive order on HBCUs, promoting their important role in higher education as supports of economic growth and public service.
“HBCUs play an important role in developing a strong, diverse workforce in North Carolina and across the country,” Tillis said in a statement. “The bipartisan HBCU PARTNERS Act will help support and expand HBCU programs and ensure the next generation of students can have the opportunity to attend these historical institutions.”
Along with the HBCU Partners Act and the president’s 2017 executive order, U.S. Sen. Kamala D. Harris, D-C.A., and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced another bill to reauthorize the HBCU Historic Preservation Program last month. The legislation authorizes funding for grants to restore historic sites on HBCU campuses.
Ray Trapp, director of external affairs at N.C. Agricultural and Technological State University, believes having the government focus squarely on HBCUs is what has allowed such a piece of legislation to finally be passed.
"I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction," he said. "We are getting to where we need to be as far as advocacy for HBCUs and also for members of Congress and members of the Senate to see that we are here, we are willing and we are able and capable to do the work."
Regarding N.C. A&T specifically, Trapp said he hopes the bill will increase funding allocated for the university, especially to their research programs.
Ontario Wooden, associate vice chancellor for innovative, engaged and global education at North Carolina Central University, believes HBCUs will eventually benefit from the required annual reporting and federal government agencies will also benefit from the diversity of thought and experience HBCUs will bring to the conversation.
Wooden said he looks forward to NCCU increasing its activity in the federal contracts and grants space. He believes the legislation gives HBCUs with rising enrollment rates the necessary resources to prepare their graduates for the workforce.
“The (HBCU PARTNERS Act) is another step in the right direction for all of higher education — the direction of providing equal access to federal government services for HBCUs,” Wooden said.
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