Biden proposes $45B for research at minority-serving colleges

by Joseph K. Clark

Dive Brief:

  • Minority-serving institutions, including historically Black colleges, would get around $30 billion to invest in their research and related facilities through President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal.
  • The American Jobs Plan also calls on Congress to allocate $15 billion to create up to 200 research incubators at these schools and form a climate-focused national lab affiliated with an HBCU.
  • Biden pledged support for MSIs on the campaign trail, including funding for research initiatives and infrastructure.

Dive Insight:

minority-serving colleges

Biden’s plan attempts to deliver on some of his campaign promises for MSIs, including a pledge to spend $10 billion to create the research centers and $20 billion to build new and upgrade existing research facilities at those schools.

His new plan emphasizes a desire to invest in research and higher education, “with a commitment to lifting up workers and regions who were left out of past investments.”

The funding proposed for MSIs is part of a $180 billion investment the president wants Congress to make in the nation’s research and development infrastructure.

Including these schools in the proposal “lets it be known to legislators that we have to be part of this process,” said Rodriguez Murray, senior vice president of public policy at government affairs at UNCF, which advocates for private HBCUs. “We cannot be left out if you want the workforce of tomorrow to actually look like the country we live in.”

In an emailed statement, the research funding is “a critical and smart investment” in the country’s future; Harry Williams, president, and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Williams hopes legislation Congress would pass in response to Biden’s proposal also includes “additional flexible funding” for HBCUs to address deferred campus maintenance, modernize buildings and increase their footprint. TMCF supports public HBCUs.

MSIs, and HBCUs in particular, have been a focus for new federal and philanthropic money. This new funding, inspired in part by the recent racial reckoning in the U.S., has been transformational, HBCU leaders have said. But higher ed leaders say continued support is needed to close institutional equity gaps between MSIs and predominantly White institutions.

Biden made pledges to MSIs beyond research funding. His campaign platform called for billions in grants to these schools for student aid, graduate programs, and initiatives that increase enrollment, retention, completion, and post-graduation employment. He also called for $20 billion invested in rural broadband expansion.

His latest proposal also seeks expansion of broadband internet access, $12 billion of investments in community colleges, and more research and development funding for land-grant universities. However, it doesn’t specify an amount.

For now, Biden’s proposal is just that. The sweeping $2 trillion federal spending plan would likely need support from Congressional Republicans. So far, they and business groups oppose the corporate tax hike that would help finance it, The New York Times reported.

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