The bipartisan deal announced Tuesday to amend legislation tied to funding historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions is moving quickly. It’s already been passed in the U.S. Senate.
In addition to making permanent $255 million in annual funding to those institutions, the so-called FUTURE Act would also simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and eliminate paperwork for the 7.7 million federal student loan borrowers currently on income-driven repayment plans by automating income recertification.
This was the latest attempt at compromise after Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the education committee, proposed a package of bills that was seen as a piecemeal approach to reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
“By permanently extending funding for these valuable institutions and streamlining our student aid system, this deal is a win-win. Now, I look forward to continuing to work with my Republican colleagues on efforts to overhaul the Higher Education Act in a comprehensive, bipartisan way that does right by all students,” Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington and the ranking member on the Senate education committee, said in a statement.
“It’s hard to think of a piece of legislation that would have more of a lasting impact on minority students and their families than this bill,” Alexander said in a statement. “First, it provides permanent funding for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions attended by over two million minority students. Second, it takes a big first step in simplifying the FAFSA for 20 million American families, including eight million minority students, and eliminating the bureaucratic nightmare created by requiring students to give the federal government the same information twice.”
The development has been praised by HBCUs and higher education advocates. The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for black colleges, released statements from several HBCU presidents in support of the bill and its passage. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators also released a supportive statement.
The amendment must still go through the U.S. House of Representatives to be enacted. While the funding for HBCUs increases the likelihood that it will pass, some experts are worried about issues stemming from the proposed FAFSA change that would alter the tax code.