As so many of us here in Alabama know, college football is more than just a pastime -- it’s our passion. The Magic City Classic between Alabama A&M and Alabama State brings together two of our tremendous Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or “HBCUs,” for one of the most anticipated events of the year.
The Magic City Classic weekend is not only a football game, it’s a time to reflect on the history and importance of Alabama’s HBCUs.
Alabama not only has the most HBCUs of any state in the country, we have the best. From Tuskegee to Oakwood, HBCUs are educating our country’s next generation of leaders.
It’s important to keep in mind just how significant these institutions are, especially for first-generation students and young people from low-income families. Sixty percent of black engineering students and seventy percent of black dentists and physicians earn their degrees from HBCUs. Around half of our country’s black teachers are educated and trained at an HBCU, and it’s estimated that HBCUs in Alabama add $1.5 billion to our economy.
These schools are often the cornerstones of their communities -- educating students and supporting good jobs both on and off campus. That’s why I have been working in the Senate to increase federal investments in our HBCUs and all minority-serving institutions.
Last year I worked with Senator Kamala Harris to secure a 14-percent increase in federal discretionary funding for our great HBCUs. I’ve also spent the past year working to extend mandatory funding for minority-serving institutions, which expired on Sept. 30. And while Senate Republicans continue to block a vote on this bipartisan legislation, I will keep working to renew the funding as quickly as possible and give these schools the certainty they need.
I’ve also been looking at ways we can help more people achieve their dreams of a college education, or get trained for jobs of the future.
This week, I joined my Republican colleague from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander, to introduce legislation to significantly cut down the FAFSA form (from 108 to 18-30 questions) and make it a less intimidating process to students and their families. Making sure students are filling out their FAFSAs and getting all the financial aid they deserve will help set them up for a stronger financial future and hopefully reduce the debt they start their lives with upon graduation. Ensuring equal access to quality education should never be a partisan issue, and I’m working to keep it that way.
As I travel throughout Alabama to hear from folks across the state, I am consistently impressed by the passion, dedication, and sense of community displayed by students from our HBCUs, whether it’s at a student town hall at Tuskegee University or a football game like the Magic City Classic.
Alabama’s HBCUs are a vital part of the foundation of our education system, but they’re underfunded and future funding is currently at risk. As long as I am your United States Senator, I will continue to stand up for every Alabamian and I won’t stop fighting to invest in our HBCUs and make college more accessible for students across our state.
So whether you’re a Hornets fan or a Bulldogs fan, this weekend we can all get behind supporting our HBCUs both on and off the field.