Newswire : Congressional Black Caucus members talk impeachment, HBCU funding

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia


Shortly after the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to impeach President Donald Trump on Friday, December 13, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) held a conference call with publishers of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the trade association of Black Press publications from around the country.
While CBC members addressed the impeachment proceedings, the call was a reminder that Congress continues to work on other pressing issues.
The call included CBC Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.), and Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Val Demings (D-Fla.), Alma Adams (D-North Carolina), and Bobby Scott (D-Virginia).
The members discussed the passage of the FUTURE Act, legislation that provides needed funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other educational institutions.
“Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribally Controlled Colleges or Universities, and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) play a significant role in expanding access to higher education for low-income students and students of color,” said Scott, the Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor.
“Unfortunately, despite their outsized role in serving our nation’s most underserved students, these schools have historically been under-resourced compared to other institutions of higher education,” Scott stated.
“The FUTURE Act won’t only guarantee at least $250 million per year for HBCUs and MSIs; it will simplify the Free Application for Student Aid (FASFA) and makes it easier for students to access student aid and repay their loans,” Scott co.ntinued.
The FUTURE Act, which stands for Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education, unanimously passed the Senate. Senator Doug Jones of Alabama was a major sponsor of this legislation
The bill has been sent to the president for his signature.
Through the FUTURE Act, HBCUs will receive $85 million per year – about $1 million per school. American Indian Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities will receive $30 million annually, while Hispanic-serving institutions will get $100 million per year.
Also, predominately Black institutions will continue to reap an annual payment of $15 million, and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-serving institutions will receive $15 million each year. Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions and Native American-serving nontribal institutions each will continue to receive $5 million annually.
“HBCUs and MSIs provide pathways of opportunities for millions of Americans who come from low-income families. As a two-time graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, and a retired professor of 40 years at Bennett College for Women, I as well as all the pupils that I had the pleasure of teaching, are a testament to the power of these schools which mold their students into the leaders of tomorrow,” said Adams, the Chair of the House Higher Education and Labor subcommittee on Workforce Protections
“This agreement will secure $255 million a year for these institutions to serve over eight million students of color, preparing them for careers in our STEM professions,” Adams stated.
The legislation also reduces FAFSA by 22 questions and allows the Internal Revenue Service to directly share applicants’ tax information with the U.S. Department of Education.
“The simplification in the provision was to get information from the IRS to make the applications more accurate,” Scott stated. “If you can get the necessary information from the IRS, there would be more accuracy.”
Meanwhile, Jackson-Lee addressed the impeachment vote against Trump.
“Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress,” she said of the two articles of impeachment that the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of on Friday, December 13.
“What the president was essentially caught doing was attempting to interfere in the 2020 election. So, in terms of the significance of this for our community, the idea that the president would cheat on the election and attempt to get himself re-elected, I think, would change our lives for generations,” Jackson-Lee stated.
She continued: “If you think about the fact that [re-election] would mean there will be one if not more appointments to the Supreme Court. He has already appointed over 100 judges, and I am sure 99 percent of them would be horrible when it comes to our issues.
“When you think of the dismantling of so much as what we have fought for over these years, the idea that our people would have to endure another term of this President is almost beyond our comprehension.”
Jackson-Lee conceded that the Senate in all probability would not remove Trump, but impeachment in the House was still necessary.
Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton are the only presidents in American history to have faced impeachment. Nixon resigned before the House could vote. Johnson and Clinton were impeached in the House, but both were acquitted in the Senate.
“We felt that it was so important that we had to put the brakes on him interfering in the election, that even if impeachment was not going to remove him successfully, it was still critical that we did this,” Jackson-Lee stated

Newswire : HBCU funding blocked by Senate Education Chair

By Charlene Crowell

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Each year as families beam with pride at seeing a son, daughter or another relative graduate from college, that achievement is nearly always the result of a family’s commitment to higher education. And when these institutions are among the more than 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), that pride is magnified by the history of how our forefathers overcame what once seemed to be insurmountable challenges.

According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, between 1861 and 1900 more than 90 HBCUs were founded. From the first HBCU, Pennsylvania’s Cheney University, established in 1837, ensuing years led to even more educational opportunities that today include institutions spread across 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

So when federal legislation is blocked that would extend and preserve funding for HBCUs, such actions are not only an affront to today’s college students, but also to a history that has led to only 3% of the nation’s colleges and universities educating nearly 20% of all Black graduates. The success of HBCU graduates is even more noteworthy considering that 70% of students come from low-income families.

On September 26, the damaging action taken by Tennessee’s Senator Lamar Alexander, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee blocked HBCU funding. Even worse, Senator Alexander made this move just days before funding was set to expire on September 30.

The bill sponsored and introduced on May 2 by Alabama Senator Doug Jones and co-sponsored by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, was named the FUTURE Act,an acronym for Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources Act. It began with bipartisan and bicameral support to extend critical HBCU and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) funding through 2021 for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

“Alabama is home to 14 outstanding HBCUs that serve as a gateway to the middle class for many first-generation, low-income, and minority Americans,” stated Sen. Jones. The FUTURE Act will help ensure these historic schools and all minority-serving institutions continue to provide excellent education opportunities for their students.”

Senator Scott agreed, adding “We all have a role to play in making the dream of college a reality for those who wish to pursue their education. The eight HBCUs in South Carolina have made a significant impact in our communities, creating thousands of jobs which translates to over $5 billion in lifetime earnings for their graduates.”

By September 18, a total of 15 Senators signed on as co-sponsors, including eight Republicans representing the additional states of Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Dakota, and West Virginia. Other Democratic Senators signing on represented Arizona, California, Connecticut, Minnesota, Montana, Virginia and West Virginia.
On the House side, two North Carolina Representatives, Rep. Alma Adams and her colleague Mark Walker introduced that chamber’s version that quickly passed in just two days before Alexander’s actions on the Senate floor.

So why would the HELP Committee Chair oppose a bill that had such balanced support – in both chambers as well as geographically and by party?

“Congress has the time to do this,” said Sen. Alexander on the floor of the Senate. “While the legislation expires at the end of September, the U.S. Department of Education has sent a letter assuring Congress that there is enough funding for the program to continue through the next fiscal year.”
Alexander concluded his comments by using his remarks to push for a limited set of policy proposals that would amend the Higher Education Act piece by piece.

His comments prompt a more basic question: Why is it that Congress has failed to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) for so many years?

Competing HEA legislative proposals with different notions have been bandied about since 2014. Most of these ideas were variations of promises for improved access, affordability, and accountability, simplified financial aid applications and appropriate levels of federal support.
Yet for families faced with a financial tug of war between rising costs of college and stagnant incomes, Congress’ failure to act on higher education translates into more student loans, and longer years of repayment.

The same day as Senator Alexander’s block of the bill, Wil Del Pilar, vice president of higher education at The Education Trust, a national nonprofit that works to close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income families, reacted with a statement.
“The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) is of vital importance to millions of students who currently struggle to afford college, lack adequate supports while enrolled, and are underserved by a system that perpetuates racial inequity,” said Pilar. “Students need a federal policy overhaul that addresses these issues and acts to close racial and socioeconomic equity gaps, and they can’t afford to wait any longer.”
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Charlene Crowell is the Deputy Communications Director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.