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The recent expiration of mandatory federal funding for historically black colleges won't have any bearing on award funds for the next year, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told HBCU leaders in a letter sent Wednesday.

More than $255 million in Title III, Part F, funds expired last month after Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate education committee, blocked a bill that would provide a short-term extension of the funds. Alexander proposed a long-term extension of the money for HBCUs in a broader package of higher ed legislation -- an offer rejected by Senate Democrats, who have insisted on a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Funds recently awarded under Title III would remain available to grantees, DeVos wrote. The Education Department's ability to award fiscal year 2020 funds under the program would be subject to further congressional appropriations, she said.

"This administration is committed to each and every HBCU and other minority-serving institutions and the important work they do in educating historically underrepresented student populations," she wrote.

While Senate lawmakers discuss next steps on an HEA agreement, House Democrats are expected to offer their own reauthorization proposal as early as next week, when Congress is back from recess.