TMCF Position on the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) takes pride in our 30-year legacy of advocating on behalf of our 47 member-schools and the entire Black College Community with a focus on our student-centered policy priorities which are grounded in three basic principles:

  • increasing student access to a college education;
  • retention of all of the students enrolled at our member-schools; and
  • ensuring that our students are able to complete their education and graduate

In keeping with our priorities, TMCF appreciates that the House Education and Workforce Committee incorporated provisions into H.R. 4508 (the “PROSPER Act”) which directly impact TMCF member-schools by:

  • expanding the permitted use of Title III funds to include expenditures such as concurrent enrollment programs, technology enhancements and innovative initiatives; and
  • adding TMCF member-school, the University of the U.S. Virgin Islands, as a Title III B Graduate School

While we are encouraged by provisions within H.R. 4508 which sustain and diversify Title III programming for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), we are equally concerned by language and provisions in the bill which, on its face, appears to hinder the ability of low-income and first generation students – two of the most common demographics among students enrolled at HBCUs today – to access, persist and ultimately complete their course of study at our nation’s HBCUs.

Earning a college degree remains a critical component on the path to upward mobility in America. It is imperative that any student’s efforts to obtain such credentialing not be made more difficult and, to that end, we strongly encourage the strengthening of all critical Title IV programs in the final version HEA reauthorization legislation that is considered by Congress.

TMCF shares the concerns of Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle regarding the issue of accountability. However, it is our opinion that the appropriate evaluative standard to try to achieve accountability, with respect to the expenditure of federal dollars, is one that takes into account the significant percentage of Pell eligible students served by our member-schools and, in recognition of this dynamic, offers assistance to HBCUs who are striving to improve their retention and graduation rates, similar to the accountability measure outlined in the bipartisan ASPIRE Act. Ninety-seven percent of students at TMCF member-schools require some sort of financial support to attend college. An evaluative standard to measure accountability that gives due consideration to the challenges that students enrolled at our member-schools face in attending, persisting and graduating from college is one that TMCF can support, and we look forward to the opportunity to play an active role in the development of the same.

Furthermore, as the 115th Congress continues to deliberate reauthorizing the HEA, TMCF advocates for the renewal and strengthening of the following programs:

  • Year-round Pell
    • The average tuition at a TMCF member-school is $7,500. The current maximum Pell grant award is $5,920. Therefore, at the majority of our member-schools, Pell will cover just shy of 80% of tuition. However, with year-round Pell, students at our member-schools can graduate in under four years with minimal debt, as they begin their professional careers and pursue a path of upward mobility.
  • Title III, Part B, Strengthening HBCUs Undergraduate Program Discretionary / Mandatory Funding
    • Capacity-building at our member-schools remains a key initiative of TMCF. This is also the hallmark of Title III. When properly allocated, these funds are used to strengthen the school’s ability to adapt to the needs of their students and faculty. However, due to years of underfunding, these resources also fill critical gaps in fiscal and programmatic areas. Our schools will benefit from increased flexibility to use these funds on innovation that support changing workforce needs.
  • Title III, Part B, Strengthening HBCUs Graduate Institutions Program
    • This program provides critical funding to ensure equality of educational opportunity in graduate education and allows TMCF to effectively execute our mission of helping to diversify our nation’s workforce.
  • Title VII, Masters Degree Programs at HBCUs and PBIs Program
    • TMCF firmly believes that our students’ ability to pursue and obtain graduate degrees also greatly strengthens our nation’s ability to remain competitive globally. HBCUs play a pivotal role in providing well-qualified and technically-skilled candidates to meet our nation’s workforce needs in the global marketplace. The Masters Degree Programs at HBCUs and PBIs provide funding for critical programs such as faculty professional development, faculty exchanges as well as construction, renovation and maintenance of laboratories and instructional facilities.

As always, TMCF will continue to work with both Republican and Democrat Congressional leaders to develop and enact legislation which strengthens financial support for, and promote expanded access to our nation’s HBCUs.