The Senate's failure to renew $255 million in annual mandatory funding for historically black colleges is already having consequences on campuses, wrote Harry L. Williams, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, in a letter to lawmakers Monday.
The group, which represents public historically black colleges, had called on the Senate to pass the FUTURE Act, which would have provided a short-term extension of Title III, Part F, funds that pay for STEM education at HBCUs. Senator Lamar Alexander, the GOP chairman of the Senate education committee, blocked the bill from passing on a voice vote before those funds expired on Sept. 30.
Alexander proposed that the Senate instead pass a package of higher ed bills that included a permanent extension of the HBCU funding. Democrats, who want to reach a deal on a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, rejected the offer.
(This story was updated to clarify the proposed extension of HBCU funds in the Alexander bill.)
In his letter, Williams said TMCF has already seen examples of member colleges notifying employees that their positions or programs will be terminated by Sept. 30, 2020, or sooner if the funding is not reauthorized.
"These are real jobs, held by people who interact with students every day, in programs that play a critical role in graduating and retaining students in the STEM fields, among other disciplines," he wrote. "The longer we wait to give certainty to these universities, the more institutions will be left with no choice but to begin winding down programs that materially benefit students and employees alike, and strip away the institutional knowledge bases that our schools have built over time with the support of Title III, Part F."
Williams called on the Senate to pass the FUTURE Act, which was previously approved by the House, before tackling a broader agreement to overhaul the Higher Education Act.