Senate blocks FUTURE Act, which provides funding efforts to HBCUs

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The FUTURE Act, a bill that proposes funding $255 million toward historically Black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions across the United States, has been blocked by the U.S. Senate.

The bill, which passed in the House in September, was sponsored by Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., and co-sponsored by Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C. It continues Title III funding for HBCUs and MSIs that expired in September.

The House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution to fund government operations until Dec. 20, 2019. However, Adams said in a press release that the FUTURE Act was not included due to objections from Senate Republicans, namely Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-T.N., the chairperson of the Senate Republican Conference.

“Chairman Alexander holds the fates of six million students in his hands, and his consistent opposition to the FUTURE Act is denying them access to careers in emerging STEM fields,” Adams said in the press release.

Walker expressed his support for the FUTURE Act in a statement sent over email. “Few institutions assist us more in opening doors for opportunity and prosperity than the HBCUs, like North Carolina A&T State University, that educate and equip hundreds of thousands of students across the country,” he said in the statement. “The House acted swiftly to pass our FUTURE Act and the Senate should follow suit to support and invest in our next generation of job-creators, innovators and leaders.”

Ray Trapp, director of external affairs for North Carolina A&T University, expressed the importance of Title III funding to HBCUs, saying that the university receives $1.6 million per year. Trapp said NC A&T uses the funding for essential STEM-based programs.

“We use that money to prepare our students for careers in physical, natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, information technology, engineering, language instruction, nursing, allied health professions,” Trapp said. “We also use that for enhanced research and instructional spaces that provide students with the best learning environment.”

Michael D. Page, director of external affairs for North Carolina Central University, said NCCU supports the immediate passage of the FUTURE Act because HBCUs receive $85 million each year in mandatory funding under Title III. He said NCCU received $1.3 million in funding this year.

“HBCUs across the country want to ensure this funding is passed so we continue to enhance our STEM and other academic programs,” he said in an email.

Both Trapp and Page said the universities are advocating that senators pass the bill.

“A big thing that we’ve been doing is actually educating our senators on how important this funding is for us, and making sure that they understand this is critical funding for us to continue our mission and to continue to educate our students,” Trapp said.

Page said many NCCU alumni are advocating on the university’s behalf. He said their impact is critical towards getting the bill passed.

“It helps legislators to understand it’s not just students and university administrators advocating for these funds but people who realize the significance of HBCUs across the country,” Page said.

Trapp said it is important to remember that the FUTURE Act is a bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Democratic and Republican representatives in both houses. In the Senate, the bill was sponsored by Sen. Doug Jones, D-A.L., and co-sponsored by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

“This isn’t something that’s really a partisan issue, it’s strictly a higher education issue, and we don’t think education or higher education period should be a partisan issue,” Trapp said.

Adams furthered this sentiment in her press release.

“I will continue the fight to include FUTURE Act funds in next month’s spending package,” she said. “In the meantime, I urge Senate Republicans to stop with the partisan games and allow the FUTURE Act to be immediately considered by the full Senate.”


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