Monday, November 13, 2023

Black Representatives Establish Congressional Predominantly Black Institutions Caucus

Representative Jonathan Jackson (D-IL), Representative Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Representative Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), and Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL) announced the establishment of a new Congressional Caucus focused on educating policymakers and uplifting the needs of Predominantly Black Institutions. The Congressional Predominantly Black Institutions (PBI) Caucus will unite policymakers who share the goal of understanding and advancing policies to support PBIs.

PBIs were established in 2007 via P.L. 110-84, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, to expand access to important federal grants to assist institutions with limited institutional wealth to include colleges and universities serving large percentages of low-income African American students. Prior to 2007, these support grants assisted only a subset of institutions that educate low-income students who are underrepresented in higher education, including: Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions; Hispanic Serving Institutions; Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); and Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities. The 2007 law created grants for PBIs, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions, and Native American-Serving, Non-tribal Institutions to better support low-income and minority students. Rep. Davis, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), and Rep. Major Owens (D-NY) championed the legislation to establish PBIs because these under-funded institutions that serve hundreds of thousands of students could not receive institutional aid as similar colleges. Although there were grants to support the important work of HBCUs, PBIs cannot be HBCUs because HBCUs must have experienced affirmative discrimination by the federal government prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Thus, Congress changed the Higher Education Act to better assist under-funded colleges in graduating low-income minority students.

PBIs represent an increasing cadre of four-year and two-year institutions that serve as the access point for a growing number of urban and rural Black students whose personal and financial situations limit their ability to pursue higher education in many states. There are approximately 110 such institutions that serve over 480,000 students. These institutions have minimal institutional wealth and serve a population of students who are low-income, minority, and first-generation, and whose personal finances present special challenges to educational success. PBIs are required to meet stringent eligibility requirements related to student enrollment, family income, institutional wealth, and percentage of minority students. The PBI Caucus will work to help policymakers understand the needs of PBIs so that policies better assist these important institutions.

“Black Americans deserve institutions of higher learning that are focused on helping them grow and thrive,” said Rep. Jackson. “That’s why I’m so excited to join my esteemed colleagues to form the first congressional caucus whose sole goal is to advance policies to support Predominantly Black Institutions. Chicagoland is home to a number of these scholarly institutions, and I look forward to working to aid and uplift them and other PBIs across the country.”

“Predominantly Black Institutions play an essential role in educating Black students in Chicago and across the country,” said Rep. Davis. “I am proud that my work to create PBIs helped bring over $45 million to the PBIs in Chicago, including: Chicago State University; Kennedy-King College; Malcolm X College; Olive-Harvey College; Prairie State College; and South Suburban College. I am pleased to join with Reps. Clarke, Jackson, and Kelly to establish the PBI Caucus to help legislators understand the importance of these colleges and universities and to advance policies to help these institutions and their students thrive.”

"For decades, Predominantly Black Institutions have served to empower students of color with an equitable and quality education,” said Rep. Clarke. “I’ve long fought to ensure PBIs have the funding they need to support our nation’s future leaders and take great pride in my work to secure more than $31 million in funding for New York PBIs, including the City University of New York, Medgar Evers College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Metropolitan College of New York, and others. As members of Congress, we have a moral responsibility to support these colleges for the students who rely on them, and I am honored to stand alongside my colleagues in the creation of this critical PBI Caucus."

“I’m proud to support Predominantly Black Institutions across the nation and at home in the Chicagoland area. PBIs foster Black student success, offer direct support to first-generation and low-income students, and address some of the most pressing challenges facing Black students,” said Rep. Kelly. “I am happy to join with Reps. Davis, Clarke, and Jackson to establish the PBI Caucus to advance policies that support these institutions and ensure that their students can achieve their dreams.”

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