After stalling in a Republican Senate, funding for Minority-Serving Institutions has lapsed on Sept. 30, leaving many schools without a safety net.
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) is among the HBCUs with funding hanging in the balance.
The Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act provides funding for Minority-Serving institutions. The money provided to these schools is typically used to fund STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as well as building improvements and scholarships.
Of the $255 million, about $85 million goes to HBCUs.
The future of the $255 million funding for minority institutions is unclear after Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, blocked legislation that would provide a two-year extension of the money.
Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility (SAFRA) reports FAMU was awarded $1,551,159.00 in 2018, an award ending in Sept. 2020.
Dr. Charles Weatherford, FAMU Interim Executive Director of Title III programs, sees potential danger for programs and students affected.
“It’s slowing down our ability to produce a workforce for the 21st century, which is what we are trying to do,” Weatherford said. “Instead of hindering us, they need to be supporting us.”
The institution could be forced to end or alter programs now that Congress has failed to conclude.
Funding could be reduced for: The Student Success Initiative, a program that provides tutoring and counseling, Brooksville student training program – an agricultural and research station in Brooksville, FL, various IT projects, and the Interdisciplinary health science initiative.
The STEM program could see a decrease in its learning project, ultimately having to accommodate fewer students.
A lapse in funding not only affects students and STEM programs, but it also spills over to the employees too. Weatherford said efforts will be made to transfer staff paid out of SAFRA to other jobs once the money runs out.
Weatherford also said FAMU has written countless letters to Presidents, congressmen and senators. He urges students to voice their opinions to Florida representatives.
Alvin Smith, a fifth-year architecture student, is already considering his future as a STEM major.
“Lapses in funding affects a lot of our abilities. It limits the amount of real-life experience and access to some of the modern technological advances in the field, leaving us to have to use older software,” said Smith. “We have very limited amounts of virtual classrooms which have extended the time that some people have to stay in school.”
Alexander and Senate Republicans aimed to attach the funding to measures geared towards updating the Higher Education Act, ultimately putting the funding at risk.
“Ensuring that Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions continue to receive federal funding is something that we all want to do,” Alexander said. “However, instead of a short-term patch, we should pass a long-term solution that will provide certainty to college presidents and their students. I am ready to do this, in conjunction with a few additional bipartisan higher education proposals from 31 Senators — 19 Democrats and 12 Republicans.”
One of the three additional provisions that senators outlined included the re-authorization of a federal program called TRIO, which has aided many students at FAMU.
Zaychina Nance, TRIO program director, says she’s seen her share of threats to cut funding.
“The people who are doing this a lot of times feel like that’s something good for their constituents not necessarily something good as a whole,” Nance said.
Black leaders from The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) have urged Congress to pass the FUTURE Act. In a press release from The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, representatives express their disappointment in Alexanders decision to object.
The House voted Tuesday, Sept. 17 to approve the chamber’s version of the bipartisan bill, sponsored by Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) and Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.). The bill successfully passed the House but has stalled to pass the Senate.
For more information on the status of H.R. 2486 visit, https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/2486