WASHINGTON, D.C. (Birmingham Times) –– Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) this week announced final passage of his bipartisan legislation, the FUTURE Act, to permanently renew annual funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) that had expired in September.
Last week, Jones joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues to announce a compromise deal to permanently fund HBCUs and MSIs as well as take a first important step to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). That legislation was amended to strengthen privacy protections and approved in the House of Representatives this week by a vote of 319-96. The amended bill was later approved unanimously in the Senate this evening. It now goes to the President for his signature.
Before funding expired on September 30, Senator Jones took to the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to support a vote on his legislation. The Senate failed to take action before the deadline, but Senator Jones continued to fight to renew the funding and raise awareness about the urgent need to pass this legislation.
“This day has been more than a year in the making and it will be a welcome relief to the HBCUs in Alabama that serve tens of thousands of our best and brightest. Today we are sending an important message of support for our HBCUs and showing in no uncertain terms that we believe they are vital to our system of higher education,” said Jones, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “Our legislation also makes much-needed changes to the FAFSA form and will make it easier for more students to earn a college degree. Its swift passage tonight is proof that Congress can make progress on bipartisan priorities even despite all that’s going on in Washington these days.”
Leaders from the 13 Alabama HBCUs that receive this annual funding expressed their support for the FUTURE Act and shared what it means to their institutions:
Bobbie Knight, Interim President, Miles College:
“The students, faculty and staff of Miles College are appreciative of the diligence of Alabama Senator Doug Jones and the Senate Education Committee, which worked to produce the amendment to the FUTURE Act. The amendment to the FUTURE Act ensures that the Title III program, which provides substantial funding to Miles College and other HBCUs, remains funded by Congress. Senator Doug Jones has worked tirelessly to ensure that our students have a future.”
Dr. Perry W. Ward, President, Lawson State Community College:
“The students, faculty, and staff of Lawson State Community College are grateful to Senator Doug Jones and his bipartisan efforts with members of the Senate to assist in providing a solution to permanently fund Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions and their work to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid process.
“Lawson State is among a list of 13 proud HBCUs in the State of Alabama that has in some way reaped the benefits of the Senator’s fervor and commitment to education. We gladly endorse and support him in this endeavor to provide this relief to Lawson State and so many other HBCUs.”
Dr. Reginald Sykes, President, Bishop State Community College:
“On behalf of the faculty, staff, administration, and most importantly, the students of Bishop State Community College, I extend my deepest gratitude to Senator Doug Jones and the bipartisan group of senators who worked endlessly to ensure permanent funding for current and future students attending Historically Black Universities and Colleges and all minority-serving institutions.
“The FUTURE Act, along with the simplified FAFSA process, will provide so many of Bishop State’s students an opportunity to gain an education without the added worry of how to finance it. We are grateful for this proposal as it helps our students achieve their dreams of obtaining a college education.”
Dr. Patricia Sims, President, Drake State Community and Technical College:
“I am extremely excited about Senator Jones’ leadership on this initiative to provide permanently funding to HBCUs and to simplify the FAFSA. The two initiatives will have a tremendous impact on ensuring that this who have been traditionally marginalized are able to have access funding to support their education and that our institutions are prepared to deliver quality educational programs and experiences.”
Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr., President, Alabama Agriculture & Mechanical University:
“Alabama A&M University appreciates the leadership of Senator Doug Jones in his successful effort to permanently renew federal funding to HBCUs. Senator Jones’s efforts provides permanent reassurance to the more than 100 HBCUs that the federal government continues to believe in the mission and relevance of our institutions. Title III funding is critical to Alabama A&M University and essential to providing faculty development, enhancing our STEM disciplines, and distance education.”
Dr. Quinton Ross, President, Alabama State University:
“The passage of this legislation ensures that our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority serving institutions like Alabama State University will have much needed funding to support programmatic, personnel and academic facility needs to assist students in realizing their higher education aspirations. The Senate’s efforts to simplify FASFA applications will further ensure opportunities for students without many of the roadblocks that have existed in the past.”
Dr. Martha Lavender, President, Gadsden State Community College:
“The leadership provided by Senator Doug Jones and others on this bipartisan committee is paving a firm foundation for the future of HBCUs in Alabama and across the nation. Students today face more challenges with financing a college education than ever before. The amendment provides assurance that our students will have the support they need to pursue their educational goals and enter the career pathway of their choice.”
Dr. Leslie N. Pollard, President, Oakwood University:
“We celebrate the work of Senator Jones and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee to ensure the passage of legislation to continue funding the work of HBCUs. Oakwood University and UNCF institutions like us, maximize every dollar receive from Title III funds, and understand the benefit of simplifying the FAFSA application for many of our first generation college students. This bill is an acknowledgment of the great contributions HBCUs and MSIs have made, and are making every day in this country. HBCUs continue to graduate the majority of African American professionals and are currently cultivating the next generation of thinkers, technological innovators and biomedical researchers to move the country forward.”
Dr. Bill Ashley, President, Shelton State Community College:
“We, at Shelton State, are pleased to hear that a bipartisan solution has been reached in an effort to continue critical funding streams and simplify the FAFSA process. We are grateful for the determination and hard work of Alabama’s representatives in reaching this solution. On an annual basis, HBCU and MSI funding streams impact the state of Alabama through over $9 million worth of investments made to our students and the institutions who serve them. In addition to these important resources, should this legislation pass, access to federal financial aid will be a more simple process for our students. We are eager to see the impact that this will have on access for all who seek to improve their socioeconomic outlook through education and training.”
Dr. Cynthia Warrick, President, Stillman College:
“Stillman College is grateful for the leadership of Senator Doug Jones in championing a permanent extension of federal funding for HBCU’s. With the passage of the FUTURE Act, Stillman College is now able to return its focus to increasing student enrollment and participation in STEM related disciplines.”
Dr. Billy C. Hawkins, President, Talladega College:
“I am pleased that this measure to provide permanent funding for HBCUs has been approved, and I congratulate Congress for this successful bipartisan effort.”
Sam Munnerlyn, President, Trenholm State Community College:
“I applaud Senator Doug Jones for his unwavering support of HBCUs. They are critical to our communities. Schools like Trenholm State have offered thousands of minority and first generation students a pathway to achieve academic and career success.”
Dr. Lily D. McNair, President, Tuskegee University:
“The FUTURE Act is about acknowledging the role of HBCUs like Tuskegee University in enhancing and diversifying our nation’s workforce. If our country’s factories, laboratories and boardrooms are to be truly inclusive, then permanently investing in the future of HBCUs and minority-serving institutions is imperative.”