Your Take: HBCU Funds on Chopping Block

If you care at all about black colleges, here's what you need to do now, says the UNCF's president.

Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post via Getty Images

For weeks, HBCU presidents, students and supporters of historically black colleges and universities have been sounding the alarm, concerned that the deficit-reducing congressional “super committee” was targeting federal funding for HBCUs for drastic cuts. In the end, the super committee couldn’t agree on a list of cuts. Does that mean that HBCUs are home free?

Not a chance. HBCUs could still lose more than $20 million per year in federal support through across-the-board cuts triggered by the super committee’s failure, unless a new deal is struck. Or they could lose as much as $85 million per year through the normal appropriations process through which Congress decides how federal programs get funded. Either way, HBCUs are still on the Washington chopping block.

It’s hard to understand. This time in history should be the HBCUs’ season. They produce the globally competitive college graduates of color that a country with a population headed toward majority-minority needs. The institutions are powerful economic engines in a frail economy. They help to level the playing field in a nation concerned about income inequality.

The last six presidents, Republicans and Democrats alike, have supported HBCUs. A succession of Congresses, controlled by Democrats and Republicans alike, have invested in HBCUs by voting for federal support under Title III, Part B, “Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” of the Higher Education Act. 

But now, just when the country needs HBCUs the most, many in Congress want to slash the federal support HBCUs receive by more than a third — $85 million — even if it means slashing HBCUs’ contribution to the country’s economic and social health. 

Ready to Fight

But HBCUs are used to adversity. And they are used to fighting back. HBCU presidents have made repeated trips to Capitol Hill to make their case and talked to lawmakers in the states and districts they represent. And three organizations that represent HBCUs — the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the United Negro College Fund — have banded together to sound the alarm and rally HBCU alumni, students, faculty, staff and other supporters to express their support to their hometown members of Congress. HBCU backers can go to and click on “Take Action” to email their views to their representatives in the House and Senate.