Adams’ HBCU financing bill passes U.S. House

Rep. Alma Adams

Adams’ HBCU financing bill passes U.S. House
July 21
00:00 2016

Measure is headed to Senate

At a place in time that most news reports on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) seem to be negative, last week predominantly black institutions across the nation got some well deserved good news when the HBCU Capital Financing Improvement Act was passed unanimously by the U.S. House.

The bill, also known as H.R. 5530, was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, of N.C. District 12, and seeks to improve access and oversight of an existing program that enables black institutions to improve their campuses to better serve their students.

By improving financial access for HBCUs to aid in acquiring funding for improvements, the bill would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965.
“As a proud graduate of North Carolina A&T, I am proud to be apart of this bill that will strengthen the infrastructure of historic black institutions across the nation,” said Adams. “For most HBCUs, infrastructure is a big problem, and with the HBCU Capital Financing Program we are addressing those issues.

“We felt like something needed to be done to level the playing field, and this bill does that.”
During an interview with The Chronicle, Adams noted that along with providing additional financial support for institutions interested in participating, the bill also strengthens technical assistance and provides financial counseling.

Other modifications include the formation of advisory boards that will annually submit a report on the status of all loans in the capital financing program. The board will also make recommendations for addressing the issues related to construction financing, Adams said.

“The advisory board will provide us with the data we need to make necessary improvements,” she continued. “Seeing that data can be very convincing. Having data is proof of the problems that our institutions are facing are real.”
Although the bill will make the program more accessible for HBCUs currently not enrolled, as the bill currently stands, most public institutions of higher learning are not eligible for the program. A statement from Winston-Salem State University says that the external affairs director has advised that H.R. 5530, as written, will not benefit North Carolina’s public HBCUs.

In its current form, the bill will only impact Barber-Scotia, Johnson C. Smith, Livingstone, St. Augustine and Shaw universities and Bennett College.

Although H.R. 5530 isn’t the first bill Adams has sponsored to be passed by the House, the representative for District 12 said she was happy that the bill received support from both Democrats and Republicans. She mentioned the efforts of U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, a Republican from Alabama who was a co-sponsor for the bill, played a major roll in educating members of Congress on the importance of HBCUs. Byrne, who represents District 1 in Alabama, has also been a strong supporter of the Congressional HBCU Caucus that Adams started last April.

“Rep. Byrne really understands education. It felt good to see this congressman who is not a graduate of an HBCU stand up and fight for these institutions,” Adams said.
Adams noted seeing both parties come together to unanimously pass the bill creates dialogue on HBCUs not only in Congress, but on a national platform as well. She said, without historic black institutions, more than 300,000 students would miss out on expanding their intellect.

“In order to serve our schools, this is the type of bipartisanship we need. We have to make sure HBCUs not only survive but thrive as well.”

While acknowledging that all HBCUs in the state have issues with infrastructure, Adams said the bill is just the beginning, and now that the conversation on HBCUs have started, more people will take notice.
“We have to educate each other on the importance of these institutions,” she said. “The bill shines a national spotlight on HBCUs. Now we have to keep these conversations going to ensure our universities continue to grow and prosper.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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