Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Speech: Funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Posted on September 19, 2019

Reserving the right to object, ensuring that Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions continue to receive federal funding is something that we all want to do.

However, instead of a short-term patch we should pass a long-term solution that will provide certainty to college presidents and their students.  
I am ready to do this, in conjunction with a few additional bipartisan higher education proposals from 31 Senators—19 Democrats and 12 Republicans.
Here is what I propose such a package would include:
Permanent mandatory funding, $255 million each year, for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions;
Reduce the number of questions on the FAFSA from 108 to 17-30, as Senators Bennett and Jones and I have proposed;
A proposal by Senator Murray and me, along with Senators Collins, Cornyn, Gardner, Hassan, King, Stabenow, Tillis and Whitehouse to allow students to answer up to 22 questions on the current FAFSA with one click by using data the government already has from the IRS. This would also reduce the burdensome verification process. The Senate has already passed this once.  
A proposal to allow incarcerated individuals who are eligible for parole to use a Pell grant for prison-education programs – this is something a number of senators want to do, including Senators Schatz, Lee and Durbin;  
A proposal by Senators Portman, Kaine, Cardin, Gillibrand, Hassan, Klobuchar, Stabenow, Baldwin, Brown, Capito, Coons, Ernst, Jones, Moran, Shaheen, Sinema, Smith, Wicker and Braun to allow students to use their Pell grants at high-quality short-term skills and job training programs that lead to credentialing and employment in high-demand fields like health care or cybersecurity;
Expand Pell grant eligibility to 250,000 new students and qualify an additional 1.3 million students for the maximum Pell grant award;
Increase the maximum Pell grant award.
I’ve been talking with Senator Murray about reauthorizing and updating the Higher Education Act for several years. While we continue to work on a larger package, Congress should pass a smaller bill such as the one I just described.
I intend to discuss this with Senator Murray and other Committee members next week. 
Congress has the time to do this.
While the legislation providing the funding for these Historically Black Colleges and Universities expires at the end of September, according to the U.S. Department of Education, there is enough funding for the program to continue through the next fiscal year. 
In the meantime, Congress should reach a long-term solution to support these important institutions.
I object