WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Booker, whose parents both attended HBCUs, along with Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Doug Jones (D-AL), led more than a dozen of their colleagues in urging Senate leadership and appropriators to support minority serving institutions (MSIs) in the next coronavirus stimulus package. New Jersey is home to 13 minority-serving institutions.

“As MSIs enroll a high number of low-income, first-generation college students and are consistently under-resourced due to smaller endowments and lower levels of federal and state investment, they need additional support to continue to respond and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent yesterday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The group called for the following measures to be included in the next relief package to help MSIs weather the economic fallout from COVID-19:

  • An increase in the maximum Pell Grant amount (HBCUs serve a high percentage of Pell Grant recipients and today’s Pell Grant covers only around 30 percent of the average costs of tuition, fees, room, and board at public four-year colleges, far below the 79 percent it covered over 40 years ago).
  • Substantial new investments in need-based financial aid, such as the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG).
  • $1 billion in additional emergency funding for MSIs.
  • Greater protection against state budget cuts by lengthening the “maintenance of effort” (MOE) provisions of the CARES Act through FY 2020 and narrowing any waiver authority granted to states.
  • $6.5B in new research and development funding specifically allocated for MSIs in federal agencies and institutes, such as the National Institute of Minority Health Disparities housed within the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Health and Human Services Title VII health professions training programs, which help produce diverse health professionals. Minority Serving Institutions have consistently been awarded fewer federal research dollars than their peer institutions. These funds are needed to increase opportunities on these campuses and boost their R&D resources in light of budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic.
  • A waiver of the allowable uses in the Minority Science Engineering and Improvement Program.
  • A technology fund to help MSIs aid their students in accessing high-speed internet (key to remote learning).

Full text of the letter is available here.

In addition to Jones and Harris, the letter was signed by Senators Gillibrand (D-NY), Brown (D-OH), Warren (D-MA), Rosen (D-NV), Van Hollen (D-MD), Kaine (D-VA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Carper (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Casey (D-PA), Warner (D-VA), Coons (D-DE), Hirono (D-HI), Cardin (D-MD), Sanders (I-VT), and Durbin (D-IL).

Booker, a member of the bicameral, bipartisan HBCU Caucus, has been a consistent and vocal advocate for MSIs. In March, he helped get 1.05 billion in emergency assistance for MSIs included in the CARES Act relief package, and helped secure language giving these institutions flexibility to use funds from previous years to cover COVID-19 related costs. Last fall he was instrumental in pushing the Senate to reauthorize lapsed funding for MSIs by passing the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act, a bill he had cosponsored.