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