UNCF Achieves “Transformational Outcomes” for HBCUs, Inspired by Black Voices Cut Short

Final efforts, spurred by UNCF convincing Congress of racial inequality in country, can turn institutions around, relieve debt in bleak COVID period

Today, Congress released details of the FY 2021 appropriations bills and the coronavirus relief stimulus.  After much lobbying by UNCF on behalf of all historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the students they serve, the following items, among others, are included in the legislation to fund the government for the rest of FY 2021 and provide emergency relief from the effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), having the ability to make transformative change on HBCU campuses:

  • Forgiveness of at least $1.3 billion of HBCU institutional loans via the Department of Education’s HBCU Capital Finance Program. All loan amounts that have been dispersed to institutions will qualify for permanent relief/forgiveness. In many cases, the forgiveness relieves institutions of millions of dollars in financial burden, allowing them to reinvest those would-be monthly and annual payments into their educational programming for students and endowments and overall become much more financially solvent. [Click here for details.]
  • Over $1.7 billion for HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and MSIs, as direct and targeted funding in COVID-19 relief. Like in the CARES Act, this set-aside helps the institutions educating the students most impacted by COVID-19. UNCF made this case again by forming an alliance with other minority serving education groups. This funding is essential in providing stability to ensure we do not lose any HBCUs or fragile institution because of the pandemic.
  • $338 million for the HBCUs via the Department of Education’s “Strengthening HBCUs” Program, an increase of $13 million over FY 2020. This grant program provides HBCUs with academic, physical plant and operational funding to recognize the historic role of the institutions in producing leaders.
  • Largely restores Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals. Incorporating education into incarceration has long been known to be one of the proven ways to reduce recidivism. Access to this program has been denied to incarcerated potential scholars for years. Three UNCF-member institutions (Wiley University, Claflin University, and Lane College) have been involved in learning programs at prisons near them (Second Chance Pell).

“The forgiving of this saddling debt on HBCUs is nothing short of transformational, and with this Congress can now add itself to the likes of Netflix founders Reed Hastings and Patty Quillin, MacKenzie Scott, and Bruce and Martha Karsh, who have donated considerable resources to HBCUs to make life better for those who are the most deserving and know the impact of racial inequity in our country,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF. “I want to thank every member of Congress who made this happen, chiefly Chairman Bobby Scott, Congresswoman Alma Adams, Chairman Lamar Alexander, the Congressional Black Caucus and the congressional leadership in both bodies on both sides.”

“This is the game changer we have all been working towards. We at UNCF were moved this summer by the unfortunate and unnecessary murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the other names we know and say,” said Lodriguez Murray, senior vice president, public policy and government affairs at UNCF. “Mr. Floyd’s suffering and passing as we all looked on, along with a revitalized chant that ‘Black Lives Matter,’ was our inspiration to make the ‘big ask’ to forgive the burdensome debt on HBCUs. I rejoice that Congress responded positively. Now HBCUs and the students they serve have a new lease on life by being free of over a billion dollars of debt that they would have had to carry on their books for years and years—which should improve accreditation renewals for many institutions!  We invite Congress and philanthropists who want to make a true difference to partner with us as we try to end the use of the old HBCU adage about ‘doing so much with so little for so long.’ We want to see the excellence of the outcomes when HBCUs get the resources they have long deserved for more than 150 years.”

UNCF calls on both houses of Congress to pass this legislation immediately, and for President Trump to sign it into law.

The final appropriations bill for FY 2021 has the following programs that benefit HBCUs:

Program Name

FY 2018 Enacted

FY 2019 Enacted

FY 2020 Enacted

FY 2021 Final Appropriations bill

Title III Strengthening HBCUs

$243 million

$282.42 million

$324.8 million

$337.619 million

(+ $12.827 million)

Strengthening HBCUs (graduate)

$69.2 million

$73 million

$83.99 million

$87.313 million

(+ $3.318 million)

Title VII HBCU Masters

$7.4 million

$8.66 million

$9.96 million

$10.956 million

(+ $1 million)

Minority Science Engineering Improvement Program

$9.6 million

$11.14 million

$12.64 million

$13.37 million

(+ $735,000)

HBCU Capital Financing Program

$30.48 million

$40.5 million

$46.5 million

$48.484 million

(+ $2 million)

DoD HBCU / MI Program

$40 million

$40.41 million

$46.48 million

$81.3 million

(+ $59.325 million)

NIH Nat’l Inst. on Min Health & Health Disparities

$287 million

$314.68 million

$335.81 million

$390.865 million

(+ $55.053 million)

Pell Grant

$6,095 (max)

$6,195 (max)

$6,345 (max)

$6,495 (+ $150)

Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

$728.2 million

$840 million

$865 million

$880 million

(+ $15 million)

Federal Work Study

$983 million

$1.13 billion

$1.18 billion

$1.19 billion

(+ $10 million)


$943.5 million

$1.06 billion

$1.09 billion

$1.97 billion

(+ $7 million)


$339.8 million

$360 million

$365 million

$368 million

(+ $3 million)

Howard University

$232.5 million

$236.5 million

$240 million

$251.018 million

(+ $11 million)

Connecting Minority Communities Act is included.  The grant program is now $285M, at least 40% of which must go to HBCUs and at least 20% to support students.



About UNCF
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at more than 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized motto, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”® For continuous updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF.