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U.S. Senate approves measures to help HBCUs

///U.S. Senate approves measures to help HBCUs

U.S. Senate approves measures to help HBCUs

The U.S. Senate has approved a pair of bills that will help historically Black colleges and universities across the country if the measures are approved by the House of Representatives and President Donald Trump.

The HBCU Propelling Agency Relationships Towards a New Era of Results for Students Act, or HBCU PARTNERS Act, would require federal agencies with relevant grants and programs to expand participation of historically Black colleges and universities, share their plans with Congress, and track their progress toward their goals.

And the reintroduction of the HBCU Preservation Program would reauthorize funding for grants to restore historic buildings and sites on the campuses.

Lincoln University President Brenda Allen lauded the moves on Friday.

“Partnerships are a high priority under our new strategic plan,” Allen said in an email to The Tribune. “Through a myriad of strategic partnerships, Lincoln works with local, regional, national and international partners to develop property, conduct research, solve community problems and contribute to the cultural life of the community.”

The HBCU Historic Preservation Program would provide “critical funding” to the historically Black university in Chester County, Allen added. It was founded in 1854.

Nearly 300,000 students were educated at HBCUs in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center.

Public universities receive 43 percent of their revenues from federal contracts, grants or appropriations on average, while HBCUs receive approximately 1 percent, according to David K. Sheppard, the senior vice president of General Counsel for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a nonprofit that represents the Black college community.

“That’s a jarring statistic,” Sheppard said by phone on Friday. “In essence, what the legislation will do is allow our institutions to undertake the capacity building efforts that have been lacking to try to close the divide. “It’s not only simply about our HBCUs surviving, but thriving, legislation like the HBCU PARTNERS Act will set the stage to allow our HBCUs to thrive.”

Federal agencies have not made a concerted effort to engage HBCUs since the 1970s and executive orders haven’t changed that, Sheppard said, adding that the legislation would allow Congress to have oversight and ultimately enforcement.

The TMCF has pushed for the legislation and the bill would build on President Donald Trump’s 2017 executive order on HBCUs, a commitment to the advancement of the institutions.

The United Negro College Fund and the National Trust for Historic Preservation also have supported the legislation.

Sheppard, who formerly served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Chief of Staff at Delaware State University, says the bill is equally as important.

Delaware State, an HBCU, had millions of costs in deferred maintenance for buildings and some of its residence halls are 50 and 60 years old, he noted.

“That is a relevant issue on every one of our campuses and being able to have those funds available to maintain those facilities and have them meet current federal law whether it’s related to the Americans with Disabilities Act or something else is imperative,” Sheppard said. “We do need those resources. Both pieces of legislation are important.”

U.S. Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced the HBCU PARTNERS Act. Two of their colleagues, Kamala Harris (D.-Calif.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), introduced the re-authorization of the HBCU Historic Preservation Program that was first led by U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.).

By Ryanne Persinger of the Philadelphia Tribune.