Washington, DC – Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson today issued the following statement regarding tomorrow’s congressional convening of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) on Capitol Hill. The association’s membership includes 23 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), of which 21 are land-grant institutions (19 under the 1890 Morrill Act, two under the 1862 Morrill Act).
“We are grateful to U.S. Senator Tim Scott (SC) and Congressman Mark Walker (NC) for organizing this conference. Their commitment to listening to perspectives of HBCUs and sharing their own insights is commendable and greatly appreciated.
“APLU and its 23 HBCU members look forward to this congressional conference that is convening leaders of all HBCUs from across the country. Public HBCUs play an important role in providing students – often from underrepresented backgrounds – with an accessible, affordable, and quality education while also conducting much-needed cutting edge research. The congressional conference will celebrate the role that these and all HBCUs play in our nation while also recognizing their challenges and charting a path for ways the federal government can better support their mission.
“It’s important that some practical programs and ideas discussed at the conference become reality. We look forward to working with Congress and the administration to turn positive discussions at the conference into action. There is an array of pending legislation that, if passed, would go a long way toward supporting public HBCUs and the students they serve. Reestablishing year-round Pell grants — a provision included in the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations bill — would better support students in financial need and help them graduate more quickly. Similarly, expanded funding of the work study program would help more students in need work to pay for college. And as Congress and the administration focus on crafting an infrastructure bill, they should look squarely at the large deferred maintenance lists at HBCUs. Support through that expected measure would help alleviate a backlog that looms over many institutions.
“1890 HBCUs, in particular, have an added purpose of serving their state through their research and engagement missions. However, many states have not provided the required match for federal research and extension programs at 1890 universities, which has resulted in lost funding for these institutions. Additionally, we must find ways to further the Morrill Act of 1890’s goal of expanding access to higher education and the promise of opportunities that accompany such an education. To that end, 1890 universities urge Congress to pass recently introduced legislation that would create a $1 million scholar program at each of the 19 institutions designated through the 1890 act. The funds would specifically support students pursuing agriculture and other STEM-related fields at these institutions.
“The congressional HBCU conference is an important step toward adequately addressing these and other issues.”