Across the nation, colleges and universities serving predominantly minority student populations are facing a fiscal “cliff” that will impact nearly 4 million students or more than one-quarter of all undergraduates in the country. These minority serving institutions (MSIs) are faced with the elimination of vital federal funding that has, for the past decade, been used to expand those institutions’ capacity to serve their students.
Title III-Part F (of the Higher Education Act of 1965) funding helps eligible colleges and universities enhance their fiscal stability, improve their institutional management, and strengthen their academic programming, with a particular focus on high-demand career areas.
For example, as we nationally acknowledge the lack of diversity in the STEM fields, particularly in areas of leadership, many MSIs have used their Title III funds to expand their STEM education programs with the goal of opening up new opportunities for minority students and building a more diverse talent pipeline for careers in this field.
According to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, for example, at Tribal Colleges and Universities, Title III-Part F funding has been the means for building a foundation for American Indian and Alaska Native postsecondary success and providing targeted workforce development programs. According to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, for the past decade, this funding has played a vital role in enhancing the STEM pipeline at Hispanic-Serving Institutions.
Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Reps. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) and Mark Walker (R-N.C.) introduced the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education Act this past spring. If passed, this law will extend, for an additional two years, the mandatory portion of Title III funding (Title III, Part F), which is currently set to expire on Sept. 30, 2019.
This is a national, bipartisan issue. The loss of this federal funding will impact millions of young adults who come from every congressional district in the country. The Future Act affects institutions that include Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Predominantly Black Institutions, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, American Indian Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions, and Native American-Serving, Nontribal Institutions. Collectively, these diverse institutions are located in 42 states, with a nationwide student body.
With the elimination of this critical federal funding, together, MSIs would face a collective financial shortfall of $255 million. The loss of this funding could potentially destabilize essential university programs that can and do serve students well beyond college and into their careers.
The loss of this Title III funding will, inevitably, result in the loss of jobs and programming for MSIs, and the loss of material support for their students, many of whom are low-income or first-generation college students, or both.
At the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), which serves 47 member-schools from the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBI) academic communities, we consider the need for the passage of this legislation to be urgent.
TMCF is pleased to have played a critical role in identifying and helping to secure the additional two years of funding that would make the Future Act deficit-neutral. The Future Act will not contribute to the national debt. Instead, it will contribute to developing the next generation of skilled workers, innovators and leaders.
TMCF is joined by presidents and CEOs of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, and United Negro College Fund in calling on the U.S. Congress to pass the Future Act before Sept. 30 to avoid the expiration of these necessary funds.
We urge Congress to do what is right and necessary. We urge Congress to give thoughtful consideration to the futures of millions of young Americans. Pass the Future Act so we can ensure that our country continues to properly invest in the young adults who will be the drivers of our nation’s economic prosperity for decades to come.
Dr. Harry L. Williams is the president & CEO of Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), the largest organization exclusively representing the Black College Community. Prior to joining TMCF, he spent eight years as president of Delaware State University. Follow him on Twitter at @DrHLWilliams.