WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama signed an executive order, which can be viewed here, renewing the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the White House East Room. This event demonstrates the President’s strong appreciation for the historic role these institutions have played in educating our citizens and the Administration’s commitment to assisting HBCUs with accomplishing their mission.
Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have made historic and ongoing contributions to the general welfare and prosperity of our country. Established by visionary leaders, America’s HBCUs have, for over 150 years, produced many of the Nation’s leaders in business, government, academia, and the military and have provided generations of American men and women with hope and educational opportunity.
The Nation’s 105 HBCUs are located in 20 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and serve more than 300,000 undergraduate and graduate students. These institutions continue to be important engines of economic growth and community service, and they are proven ladders of intergenerational advancement for men and women of all ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds, especially African-Americans.
Among its provisions the Executive Order:
• Establishes the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities to be housed in the Department of Education. Headed by Dr. John Wilson, the Initiative will lead the Obama Administration’s work to partner with federal departments, agencies and offices, as well as other public and private partners to focus on five key tasks: strengthening the capacity of HBCUs to participate in Federal programs; fostering private-sector initiatives and public-private partnerships that would include promoting specific areas and centers of academic research and programmatic excellence; improving the availability, dissemination, and quality of information concerning HBCUs to inform public policy and practice; sharing administrative and programmatic practices within the HBCU community for the benefit of all; and exploring new ways of improving the relationship between the Federal Government and HBCUs.
• Establishes a President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs that will advise the Obama Administration on matters pertaining to strengthening the educational capacity of these institutions.
Apart from the Executive Order, President Obama has demonstrated his commitment to strengthening educational opportunities at HBCUs through his FY 11 Budget which includes:
• $98 million in new money for HBCUs at the Department of Education. This includes a 5% or $13 million increase for the Strengthening HBCUs program and support for the $85 million in mandatory funding for HBCUs in the pending Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act.
• $20.5 million for the HBCU Capital Financing program, to provide HBCUs with access to financing for the repair, renovation, and construction or acquisition of educational facilities, instructional equipment, research instrumentation, and physical infrastructure. This funding will support $279 million in new loans in 2011, more than $100 million more than in 2010.
• $64.5 million for the Strengthening Historically Black Graduate Institution program, a $3.1 million or 5% increase.
• $103 million for a comprehensive science and technology workforce program at the National Science Foundation designed to engage undergraduates at Historically Black, Tribal, and Hispanic-serving colleges and universities by realigning and building on existing programs. The President’s budget request would increase funding for these activities by over 14%.
• An increase in the Pell Grant maximum award to $5,710 in 2011 – an increase of $160 over the 2010 level – and a provision to increase that rate faster than inflation in future years. In 2011, students attending HBCUs will receive about $900 million in Pell Grants, an increase of nearly $400 million since the Administration took office.
Students attending HBCUs will also benefit from provisions included in the President’s higher education package, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), currently pending before Congress and reflected in the President’s FY 11 Budget. SAFRA deepens the President’s commitment to Pell, includes an expansion of low-interest Perkins Loans and further simplifies federal financial aid forms. SAFRA would also provide increased support for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) including HBCUs and helps MSIs through programs such as the American Graduation Initiative that lends new support for community colleges, and the Access and Completion Fund, which would make grants to states, institutions of higher education, and other organizations to support innovative strategies to increase the number of students entering and completing college.
President Obama is working to provide students a complete and competitive education from cradle to career by ensuring that students, families and communities have the resources and opportunities needed to improve educational outcomes. Today, we set a course to work with HBCUs to achieve this goal.