UNCF Applauds President Obama's FY 2017 Budget Proposals
Proposed initiatives would invest in historically black colleges and universities and expand college access and affordability for minority students
(WASHINGTON, DC) — UNCF (United Negro College Fund) applauds President Barack Obama's education proposals released today within his FY 2017 Budget. The Administration's budget includes several proposals that would significantly benefit historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and low-income students who attend UNCF's 37 member HBCUs, including:
- $61 billion over 10 years for America's College Promise, including Pathways to Student Success for HBCUs and minority-serving institutions (MSIs)
- Substantial new investments in Pell Grants
- $30 million for a new HBCU/MSI Innovation for Completion Fund and $30 million set aside for HBCUs within the U.S. Department of Education's First in the World Program
- $5.7 billion over 10 years for a new College Opportunity and Bonus Fund program
- Streamlining student loan repayment
- Simplifying the student aid process and tax benefits
UNCF President and CEO, Dr. Michael L. Lomax, said he is encouraged by the President's proposed investments and believes they affirm the value of HBCUs in expanding college access and affordability to low-income and minority students.
"Students of color today face increasingly tough odds — not only in enrolling in college, but also making it through college," Lomax said. "It's not that they don't want to go to college, but all too often financial barriers stand in their way. The proposals in the budget released by the Obama Administration offer the most substantial investments to lower those financial barriers that we've seen in eight years. They deserve serious consideration by the Congress and support from all of those who believe that "A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in."®
Below is a detailed look at each of the proposed initiatives:
- America's College Promise. For the first time, the budget recommends grants to four-year HBCUs to provide first-time low-income students with up to two years of free or significantly-reduced tuition, as part of the America's College Promise initiative. UNCF worked with Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) on this initiative -called Pathways to Student Success for HBCUs and MSIs and included in the America's College Promise Act (HR 2962, S 1716) – introduced by Rep. Scott and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
- Pell Grants. Pell Grants provide essential college assistance to more than eight million students with limited financial means. The Administration's proposals to increase the maximum Pell scholarship by $120 to $5,935 in the 2017-18 school year, and index it for inflation thereafter, is a much needed step to begin to restore the purchasing power of Pell Grants – eroded to its lowest level in the history of the program. Further, UNCF strongly supports new Pell initiatives that would encourage on-time and accelerated college completion for low-income, minority students by restoring Pell Grants for summer study (which were eliminated in 2011) and providing a $300 Pell bonus for students who complete 15 academic credits per semester. All of these proposals will help low-income, minority students earn their degrees faster and with less student debt. More than 70 percent of students at HBCUs receive Pell Grants and could benefit from these proposals.
- College Opportunity and Completion Bonus Program. HBCUs welcome this new program that will reward institutions, particularly HBCUs, that enable low-income students to cross the finish line by earning their degrees. HBCUs represent three percent of all two- and four-year colleges and universities, enroll 10 percent of all African American undergraduates, confer 18 percent of all African American bachelor's degrees, and generate 25 percent of African American undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the STEM fields.
- HBCU/MSI Innovation to Completion Fund. This new $30 million initiative in the President's budget would provide competitive grants to HBCUs and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) to help them implement innovative and evidence-based strategies to boost completion rates, and HBCUs and MSIs have the opportunity to compete for additional funding under the Administration's First in the World Program. UNCF has advocated for a similar federally funded venture capital fund to finance competitive planning and implementation grants that incentivize HBCUs to develop critical innovations for meeting current and emerging needs. One private model for the innovation fund is the UNCF Career Pathways Initiative, funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc., to support competitive grants to select four-year HBCUs and predominantly Black institutions (PBIs) to innovatively create pathways from college to career for their students.
- Streamlining Student Loan Repayment. The President's budget includes proposals to continue progress in streamlining the complex array of student loan repayment options that few students understand and are able to navigate. UNCF has long advocated that income-based student loan repayment should be the default option for all borrowers and we are pleased that the Administration supports the creation of a single, simple, and better targeted income-driven repayment plan to help graduates manage rising levels of student loan debt. This is particularly important for low-income students who must borrow to attend college at greater rates, and incur greater amounts of education loan debt, than other students.
- Simplifying the Student Aid Process and Tax Benefits. Too many low-income students and families leave needed federal college assistance "on the table" because they cannot overcome overly complex federal student financial aid requirements. UNCF strongly supports the important proposals in the Administration's budget that would further streamline the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and rationalize complicated higher education tax benefits that confuse and confound students and families.
UNCF (the 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, supports and 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 21 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 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.”® Learn more at UNCF.org or for continuous updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF.