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The Biden-Harris Record of Championing HBCUs

The Biden-Harris Administration views HBCUs as central to their vision of a more inclusive, equitable, and valuable higher education system. President Biden and Vice President Harris have taken historic actions to support HBCUs over the past three years, and if reelected, plan to do even more.

To date, the Biden-Harris Administration has:

  • Secured over $7 billion in new funding for HBCUs, including $1.7 billion in grant funding to expand academic capacity and provide support for low-income students
  • Delivered one of the largest increases to the Pell Grant program in over a decade, bringing the maximum award to $7,395 per academic year.
  • Secured investments in HBCUs directly, including renovations, new construction and other infrastructure-related needs.
  • Supported HBCUs facing violence. Sadly, more than a dozen HBCUs faced bomb threats in 2022. Under President Biden, those schools received over $2 million to help schools and colleges recover from a violent or traumatic event.

By contrast, Donald Trump grossly exaggerated his contributions to historically Black colleges. Trump claimed he “saved” the HBCUs with $255 million in annual funding for minority-serving colleges, but in reality, HBCUs received the same funding during President Barack Obama’s time in the White House. 

President Biden and Vice President Harris are the only candidates with a proven record of commitment and securing new investments in HBCUs. President Biden and Vice President Harris are building HBCUs back better, and are running for reelection to finish the job. 

Their FY24 budget calls on Congress to:

  • Provide two years of subsidized tuition for students from families earning less than $125,000 enrolled in a participating four-year Historically Black College or University (HBCU), Tribally-Controlled College or University (TCCU), or Minority-Serving Institution (MSI).
  • Increase the discretionary maximum Pell Grant by $500—helping more than 6.8 million students pay for college, including HBCUs.

Looking to see if you or a loved one qualifies for HBCU grants?

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Why does the Biden-Harris Administration care about HBCUs?

President Biden and Vice President Harris know that for more than 180 years, HBCUs have raised the bar for equity, access, and excellence, creating doors of opportunity for Black students where none previously existed. President Biden also knows that the Black community and People of Color are the backbone of the Democratic Party, and were essential in winning the election to beat Donald Trump in 2020. President Biden doesn’t take this support for granted, and as President has worked hard to grow funding, support and resources for HBCUs and other programs that make a difference in the lives of Black people and People of Color across the country.

One more thing: Vice President Kamala Harris is a proud HBCU graduate herself (Howard University). The Biden-Harris administration knows first-hand what kinds of opportunities and doors that HBCUs, TCCUs, and MSIs can open. 

How can I see if I’m eligible for Federal Grants right now?

Right now there are three major, Needs-Based, Federal Grant programs for college students:

  • The Pell Grant Program is the biggest Federal student grants program for low-income students. Unlike student loans, Pell Grants are not required to be paid back; they are considered “free money,” and can be used to cover educational expenses (see note below). For the ‘23-’24 academic year, based on need, students can be awarded up to $7,395. More details and how to apply can be found here.
  • The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, or “FSEOG”, is administered by participating schools, and provides grants for up to an additional $4,000. This program is administered by participating schools. More details can be found here.
  • TEACH Grants of up to an additional $4,000 per academic year. Designed to get more teachers into America’s elementary and high schools, these grants are awarded based on need, and to students that agree to become a elementary, middle, or high school teacher and complete 4 years of teaching within 8 years of graduating. More details can be found here. 

Combined, these three major federal programs can provide up to $15,395 per academic year in grant funding. As Federal “Grants” and not “Loans” the intent of these programs is that they “free money” for students in need of financial aid, and not required to be paid back. 

It’s important to note that if a student withdraws from school, has a change in need for financial aid, doesn’t follow through on the TEACH grant service obligation, or for other reasons, they might be required to pay back all or part of the grants.

Why Fund HBCUs?

The achievements of HBCU graduates speak to the value of these institutions, which foster academic excellence and emphasize campus cultures grounded in community and inclusion. Despite representing only 3% of colleges and universities, HBCU graduates play an outsized role to support the economic mobility of African Americans, producing:

  • 40 percent of all Black engineers
  • 50 percent of all Black teachers
  • 70 percent of all Black doctors and dentists
  • 80 percent of all Black judges
  • The first woman and Black and South Asian Vice President of the United States
 How are the $7 billion in new investments secured by the Biden-Harris Administration being allocated?

The Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic actions to support HBCUs, including by investing over $7 billion in HBCUs, which includes:

  • $3.6 billion for HBCUs through the American Rescue Plan and other COVID relief.
  • $1.6 billion in capital finance debt relief for 45 public and private HBCUs.
  • $1.7 billion in grant funding to expand academic capacity and provide support for low-income students.

Additionally in the 2022 and 2023 spending packages, the Biden-Harris Administration helped secure:

  • New flexibilities for minority-serving institutions to use Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund dollars to invest in renovations, construction, and other infrastructure needs related to the pandemic;
  • A combined $900 increase to Pell Grants—the largest increase in a decade—bringing the maximum award to $7,395, which is critical to the approximately 75 percent of HBCU students who rely on Pell Grants to afford college;
  • A new $50 million grant program focused on supporting research and development infrastructure and capacity for HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and MSIs;
  • A $758 million investment for HBCU institutional development; and
  • First-time grants for the Augustus Hawkins Centers of Excellence to strengthen and diversify the teaching profession to help close opportunity gaps, including $1.56 million going to an HBCU.
What about infrastructure and HBCU college campuses?

The Biden-Harris administration has drawn attention to funding inequities between predominantly white “land-grant” universities and institutions established in the year 1862 (known as the “First Morrill Act”), and the HBCUs and other minority-serving university and institutions eventually added to the land-grant system in 1890 (known as the “Second Morrill Act”). This disparity has:

  • Forced many HBCUs to operate with inadequate resources and delay investments in campus infrastructure, student supports, research development, and more;
  • Resulted in states failing to live up to their legal obligations to provide equitable funding to HBCUs, resulting in funding gaps from $172 million to $2.1 billion; and
  • Reinforced the importance of equitably funding HBCUs and the talented, diverse students and communities they serve so they may reach their full potential and continue driving innovation.

President Biden’s appointees, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, have sent letters to 16 governors emphasizing the over $12 billion disparity in funding between land-grant HBCUs and their non-HBCU land-grant peers in their states that occurred between 1987 and 2020. In other words, the Biden-Harris administration is working to hold state governments to account for structural discrimination and disequity.