The 10 Democratic presidential candidates took the stage ahead of the Nov. 20 debate inside the Oprah Winfrey Soundstage at Tyler Perry Studios in southwest Atlanta. 
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Here’s how Democratic presidential candidates plan to help HBCUs

When Democratic presidential candidates came to Atlanta for the latest debate this week, several of them made stops at the city’s HBCUs. The 2020 candidates are vying for young African American voters to win the nomination and these students are a key target.

Nearly 300,000 students attend the nation’s 101 accredited HBCUs, which graduate more than half of the nation’s black doctors, lawyers and judges, and 40% of its African American members of Congress. More than 8,000 are enrolled at the Atlanta University Center.

Here’s a sampling of what the major Democratic presidential candidates have said about historically black colleges and universities and what they’ve proposed to improve them:

Joe Biden: The former vice president’s overall plan calls for investing $70 billion into black colleges to make them more affordable through grants and to increase enrollment, retention, completion and employment rates. 

The plan would also create research incubators and expand career pathways for HBCU graduates.

Cory Booker: Booker, whose parents attended North Carolina Central University and Fisk University, has proposed a  $100 billion plan for HBCUs and MSIs. The plan includes $40 billion in funding on HBCU campuses to address climate change and $30 billion to improve STEM programs.   

>>RELATED | How Democratic candidates are courting HBCU voters

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) speaks to the crowd at Paschal’s Restaurant during National Action Network’s (NAN) Southeast Regional Conference in Atlanta, Ga on Thursday, Nov 22, 2019.
Photo: Elissa Benzie/Elissa Benzie

“HBCU’s make our country stronger and more reflective of the diversity that makes us so great,” Booker said. “I am here today because of the power of these institutions to uplift and bring about opportunity to black Americans.”

  Pete Buttigieg: Earlier this week, at Morehouse College, Buttigieg proposed a $500 billion program that would make college more affordable for working and middle-income families. Part of that package would include $50 billion over the next decade to “level the uneven playing field” of historically black colleges and other institutions that serve minorities. 

Morehouse College student Keron Campbell snaps a selfie with presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, as he greets students after speaking while launching a new effort to win over black voters during a conversation at Morehouse College on Monday, November 18, 2019, in Atlanta. CURTIS COMPTON/AJC
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Our economy is changing and it’s past time to grow the pathways to opportunity in America,” said Buttigieg. “That starts with making college affordable for every student from a working or middle-class family and making a historic investment in HBCUs.”

Kamala Harris: A 1986 graduate of Howard University, Harris is the only candidate to actually attend an HBCU. 

November 21, 2019 - Atlanta - Presidential candidate Kamala Harris headlined a Black Women’s Power Breakfast co-hosted by Higher Heights and The Collective PAC at the Westin.   
Photo: Bob Andres/

Her plan calls for investing $60 billion in STEM education at HBCUs and minority-serving institutions as a way to open more doors for black entrepreneurship.

Amy Klobuchar: Her “Many Paths to Success” Post-Secondary Education Plan would strengthen and increase affordability for HBCUs through what she calls a “Pathways to Student Success initiative.” 

Participating HBCUs would receive federal funding to waive or significantly reduce the first two years of tuition for low-income students at four-year schools.

Bernie Sanders: Speaking Thursday at Morehouse College, in the shadow of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue, Sanders unveiled a $5 billion plan to train more teachers at historically black colleges and universities and a separate $5 billion program aimed at preparing more black dentists and other health care professionals.

11/21/2019 -- Atlanta, Georgia -- U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders takes a selfie with supporters following his speech during a New Deal Democrats Rally at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Thursday, November 21, 2019. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/

Tom Steyer: The billionaire has not dropped an official HBCU proposal, but his staff told the AJC that they are working on an announcement.

111419 ATLANTA– Tom Steyer speaks to the crowd at Paschal’s Restaurant during National Action Network’s (NAN) Southeast Regional Conference in Atlanta, Ga Thursday, Nov 22, 2019. PHOTO BY ELISSA BENZIE
Photo: Elissa Benzie/Elissa Benzie

“In the coming weeks, Tom will put forth a plan to aggressively fund HBCUs, address the crippling effects of student loan debt faced by communities of color, and build a robust economy with good paying jobs and worker protections,” Denise Lopez said. “As president, Tom will make funding HBCUs a top priority and work toward undoing the racist and unjust policies that have plagued this country for far too long."

Elizabeth Warren: In April, Warren proposed a radical higher education reform package that would include $50 billion in aid for HBCUs. “For decades, black Americans were kept out of higher education by virtue of overtly discriminatory policies,” Warren said in April. “Even as the civil rights movement rolled back racially discriminatory admissions policies, the stratification of our higher education system kept students of color concentrated in under-resourced institutions and left them vulnerable to predatory actors.”

11/21/2019 -- Atlanta, Georgia -- U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., waves to her supporters during her campaign stop at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Thursday, November 21, 2019. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/

Andrew Yang: Yang has promised $250 million in federal funds to provide training programs in grant writing for faculty and staff at HBCUs; to provide $7.5 billion in federal funding for general infrastructure improvements and $750 million for building out a fundraising infrastructure.

November 21, 2019 - Atlanta - Andrew Yang texts folks on his list along with his wife, Evelyn. Democratic presidential candidates including Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang and Pete Buttigieg, along with Stacey Abrahms, were calling and texting voters Thursday whose registrations could be canceled in Georgia at a Fair Fight phone bank at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The phone bank was in response to Georgia election officials' plan to cancel more than 313,000 voter registrations next month.   
Photo: Bob Andres/

The plan also includes $6 billion in federal funding for scholarships and internships through the White House Initiative on HBCUs; and to end any practices that allow banks to charge HBCUs higher fees.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.