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Students at HBCUs push for change and more funding

Build Back Better bill would give HBCUs billions
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Posted at 5:00 AM, Nov 25, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. — They are some of the most historically-significant colleges in our country.

Historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, are defined by the federal government as any college that was founded prior to 1964 and whose primary mission has been the education of Black Americans.

"I feel like this is a family, you know?" Jesenia Walker, who is in her second year at Howard University, said about the school.

Walker came to Howard University to embrace her roots and she says she has, but she also says actually living there hasn't been easy.

"Our AC just doesn’t work," Walker said of her dormitory.

Dormitory conditions at HBCUs nationwide have been documented for years, but in recent weeks, students have turned to protests.

They've shared on social media when a pipe bursts or a hallway floods.

Students are so upset with conditions that some at Howard have started sleeping in tents to protest.

Similar events have happened at other HBCUs nationwide.

"It’s traumatic to have to ask Black students to have to deal with those types of conditions," said Channing Hill, one of the main student organizers.

Hill says her fight isn’t just about Howard. It's about HBCUs across the country that were historically underfunded.

Take for instance Tennessee State University. State lawmakers there admitted last year they have underfunded the school by roughly $544 million since 1950.

"It's definitely a funding issue. It’s reflective of the issues that all HBCUs nationwide face," Hill said.


Lawmakers in Congress have noticed the issue with conditions at HBCUs and are debating billions to help them out.

The current version of the Build Back Better bill includes $10 billion for HBCUs. Pell grants are set to increase for all students as well.

The United Negro College Fund calls the money a “game-changer.”

The bill however is not law yet, it still has to get through the Senate where amendments are likely.

Hill is just hoping Vice President Kamala Harris, who happens to be a Howard alum, keeps lobbying for the funding.

"We hope she remembers where she came from,” Hill said.