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Friday, December 2, 2011

Federal Research and Development Funding at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Christine M. Matthews
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), which have traditionally educated a significant number of the nation’s blacks, have faced, and continue to face, substantial challenges in attempting to enhance their academic and research capabilities. Some of these institutions have a myriad of problems—aging infrastructures, limited access to digital and wireless networking technology, absence of state-of-the-art equipment, low salary structures, small endowments, and limited funds for faculty development and new academic programs for students. While many of these problems exist in other institutions, they appear to be considerably more serious in HBCUs. In addition, those HBCUs damaged by recent hurricanes, tornadoes, and other weather disasters have the added costs in the millions of replacing facilities and research equipment and rebuilding their infrastructure. This is an issue for Congress because the distribution of federal funding for HBCUs is one of the critical issues facing these institutions.

HBCUs comprise approximately 2.3% of all institutions of higher education, and enroll approximately 11.6% of all black students attending post-secondary institutions. Approximately 33.0% of the undergraduate degrees in science and engineering earned by blacks were awarded at HBCUs. Some of the most successful programs designed to attract and retain underrepresented minorities into the sciences and in research careers have been initiated at HBCUs. Data compiled by the National Science Foundation (NSF) reveal that in 2006, HBCUs provided the education for approximately 20.1% of blacks earning bachelor degrees in engineering, 35.3% in the physical sciences, 25.3% in computer sciences, 32.8% in mathematics, 32.3% in the biological sciences, 44.9% in agricultural sciences, 15.4% in social sciences, and 21.1% in psychology.

On March 30, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-152). The act includes, among other things, select provisions of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA). SAFRA provisions are contained in Title II, and make changes to and extend mandatory appropriations for several Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) programs for HBCUs and other minority serving institutions. The legislation continues two-year funding for HBCUs and minority serving institutions as outlined in the HEOA. HBCUs and other minority serving institutions would be funded at $255.0 million for each of the years FY2010 through FY2019. Estimated support would be approximately $1.1 billion over a 5-year period and approximately $2.1 billion over a 10-year period.

Date of Report: November 10, 2011
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