How HBCUs Are Lobbying For Funds To Stop The Spread Of Coronavirus

In this Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 photo, Devante Kincade, quarterback for the Grambling's NCAA college football game college football team, listens during a criminal justice class at the university in Grambling, La. Kincade, who played two seasons at Mississippi , says playing football at a Historically Black College or University is an experience to savor. Playing at an HBCU is not just about entertaining halftime shows the schools are known for, it's about community. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Written by Isheka N. HarrisonMar 18, 2020

he coronavirus – or ‘Rona’ as the culture has nicknamed it – is causing leaders of HBCUs to advocate for funding to deal with its fallout. Amid school closures and costly disruptions to campus life, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) are asking Congress for an additional $1.5 billion, reported Inside Higher Ed.

UNCF and TMCF represent private and public HBCUs, Predominately Black Institutions (PBIs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), respectively. The organizations’ leadership officials and some HBCU presidents had a conference call Monday with U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, co-founder of the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus and other members of Congress.

Lodriguez V. Murray is the senior vice president for public policy and government affairs at the United Negro College Fund. He highlighted the unique challenges HBCUs face on the call according to Inside Higher Ed.

“HBCUs are unique institutions. They operate closer to the margins. Situations outside of our control — natural disasters, hurricanes, and now the coronavirus pandemic — tend to hurt us more than other institutions,” Murray said. “Add to that the fact that students on some of these campuses will not be able to come back and that these institutions may have to forfeit funds from room and board. That will be disastrous for HBCUs. … One institution that reached out to us said it could be impacted by $2 to $4 million, and this is an institution that does not have $2 to $4 million to spare.”

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Howard University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Anthony K. Wutoh echoed Murray’s sentiment a day before the school cancelled its graduation ceremony in an article published by Diverse Education.

“Even making the assumption that students have laptops or have WiFi and will be able to readily go online, that is probably a more difficult presumption for HBCUs as opposed to predominantly White institutions,” Wutoh said. “So, there are additional costs and expenses above and beyond a traditional educational environment that HBCUs have to take under consideration.”

Acknowledging the significant, irreplaceable role HBCUs play in graduating an “outsized proportion” of Black, low-income and first-generation college students, Adams said they were working on a bailout.

“We are currently working toward a package that will include many, if not all, of those recommendations,” Adams said in a written response. “Our offices and House leadership are currently engaged in working on another stimulus package to address some of the worst impacts of the pandemic. We are confident that HBCUs will find additional support in that package.”