ICYMI: On Senate Floor, Brown Demands Passage of Legislation to Extend Critical Funding for HBCU’s, Minority Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities

After Senators Demanded Passage on Senate Floor, Republicans Counter Offered With a Piecemeal Funding Proposal That Has No Path Forward; Brown Pressing for Passage of Bipartisan FUTURE Act, which Senate Republicans have Repeatedly Blocked, Despite House Passage Months Ago

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**Download Production Quality Footage HERE**

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In Case You Missed It, on the Senate floor last night, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined his colleagues in calling for Senate passage of the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act, bipartisan legislation to extended Title III mandatory funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s), Minority Servicing Intuitions (MSIs), and Tribal Colleges and Universities. Mandatory funding for these institutions lapsed on September 30. Republicans once again rejected an effort to pass the legislation last night and counter offered with a piecemeal approach that has no path forward. Brown rejected the piecemeal approach.

If Congress does not act and mandatory funding is not extended, colleges and universities like Central State University and Wilberforce University would lose a critical funding stream they depend on. 

“We cannot hold hostage Historically Black Colleges and Universities, like Wilberforce and Central State in Ohio, and other Minority-Serving Institutions. For nearly two months now, these schools have been in fiscal limbo. They need their funding extended now,” said Brown.

MSI’s are already facing unique challenges. By drawing out the mandatory funding process, this uncertainty has caused undue financial hardships for these institutions. Many are beginning to consider staffing and programming decisions and, as with any loss of grant funding, will immediately begin to consider layoffs, program eliminations, cuts to academic support services, and other negative impacts on students.

Prior to the September 30 deadline, Brown initially called for Senate passage of the FUTURE Act. Brown also joined Senate Democrats in urging Senate Leadership to call a vote on the legislation earlier this month.

Brown’s floor remarks, as prepared for delivery, can be found below. Production quality video can be downloaded here.

Mr./Mdme. President,

Reserving the right to object.

I – and my colleagues here – have deep concerns about Senator Alexander’s proposed micro-package of higher education bills.

This is not a comprehensive reauthorization.

Our caucus has been clear about what a comprehensive bill looks like – it addresses affordability, access, accountability, and campus safety.

This falls well short of that.

My friend says that his package is bipartisan, but that’s misleading. He’s made a number of changes to the underlying bipartisan bills that do not have the support of the lead Democrats, and in some cases the lead Republicans, of the original bills.

For example, his package includes a limited repeal of the ban on Pell grants for incarcerated adults, instead of the full repeal of the ban included in the bipartisan bill.

His version of the short-term Pell program makes significant changes to the bipartisan JOBS Act of 2019, a bill I’m an original cosponsor of.

The JOBS Act of 2019 excludes for-profit colleges from eligibility for the program, but this version allows for-profit colleges – the sorts of schools we know mislead and scam students in too many cases – to sneak their way into eligibility.

It also removes a number of the protections meant to ensure programs eligible for this federal funding are actually high quality ones that educate students.

Those are just a couple of the ways that this micro-package is different from the original bipartisan bills.

We also know the micro-package cannot pass the House. Chairman Scott and Speaker Pelosi have been clear about that. A comprehensive HEA reauthorization can pass, but that’s not what this is.

I hope we can come to a bipartisan agreement, but as we work together, we cannot hold hostage Historically Black Colleges and Universities, like Wilberforce and Central State in Ohio, and other Minority-Serving Institutions, or MSIs,

For nearly two months now, these schools have been in fiscal limbo. They need their funding extended now.

Mandatory funding that is vital for these schools ran out on September 30th, because this Senate refused to act. The House did their job, and passed the FUTURE Act.

Now HBCUs are facing impossible decisions in the face of dwindling funding.

The Senate needs to immediately take up and vote on the bill the House already passed to provide full, mandatory funding for HBCUs and MSIs.

HBCUs have fostered generations of black leaders and are a critical part of our nation’s higher education system – these schools have a rich legacy and a proven track record of educating students of color and other underrepresented students.

Wilberforce was founded in 1856 as the nation’s first private institution of higher education for black students in the country.

Central State University, also in Wilberforce, has a rich legacy of educating students and is an 1890 Land Grant institution further tasked with strengthening research, extension, and teaching in food and agricultural science. 

We know that without our HBCUs, millions of black students would have been denied the opportunity to pursue higher education. HBCUs account for approximately a quarter of all of black students earning bachelor’s degrees and nearly a third of all of the black students who earn STEM bachelor’s degrees. Our country owes an enormous debt to HBCUs.

That’s why it’s unconscionable that this Senate is abandoning these schools and their students.

I’ve heard from schools about how their budgets have been thrown into chaos. They tell me that “academia is about planning,” and many of them already operate close to the margins.

HBCUs have already received letters from the Department of Education telling them they’re not getting any future funding, and they can’t use any federal funding for long-term projects.

That could mean program cuts and layoffs. It means no long-term construction projects. It means no hiring permanent faculty. No purchasing major equipment.

It’s shameful that in the year 2019 we are still ignoring schools that serve students of color and treating this as anything other than a must-pass bill.

The FUTURE Act is budget neutral – it’s fully paid for, using same offset that the Trump Administration has used in their budget. It’s a bipartisan payfor, not a gimmick. 

I would also add that this Senate and President Trump had no problem passing a trillion dollar tax cut for corporations and the wealthy that wasn’t paid for.

But as usual, they’re holding schools that serve students of color to a different standard.

I hope Senator Alexander and Senator Murray continue to negotiate a truly bipartisan, truly comprehensive HEA Reauthorization that supports HBCUs. I support those efforts.

That’s the way forward for the priorities Senator Alexander has outlined in his micro-package and for the updates and reauthorizations all our students and families need.

But, HBCUs and MSIs cannot wait until that process is over. They need action now.

HBCUs and all MSIs have to overcome enough hurdles every day to educate their students. The United States Senate should not be one of them. We need to pass the FUTURE Act now.

Accordingly, I object.

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