A bipartisan bill to make permanent $255 million in annual funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) cleared Congress last week. The measure includes $255 million in annual funding for HCBUs, simplifies the application for federal student aid, and eliminates annual paperwork required of borrowers enrolled in income-based student loan repayment plans.
The proposal is paid for by simplifying the federal student aid form, also known as FASFA, and eliminates having to submit tax information to the IRS more than once in the application process. The savings generated from these changes is expected to pay for the cost of the HBCU funding, according to Congressional Budget Office calculations.
Arkansas has four HBCUs: Arkansas Baptist, Philander Smith College, Shorter College, and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
The bill passed on a voice vote in the U.S. Senate. In the U.S. House, it passed by a 319-96 margin with Congressmen French Hill, R-Little Rock, Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, and Steve Womack, R-Rogers, voting for the measure. Congressman Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, voted against the bill.
Hill, who has three HBCUs in his district, said the act is “crucial” in serving America’s minority-serving academic institutions.
“I was proud to support the amended version of this bill that will streamline the financial aid process for lower- and middle-income families,” said Rep. Hill, who serves as Vice Co-Chair of the bipartisan HBCU Caucus.
“These reforms include a much-needed change from the tedious and often-confusing process students currently undergo in obtaining their own tax return information while also offering a simplified and secure transfer of this information. I was also pleased to see the final version of this bill address the need for taxpayer consent for the disclosure of their confidential tax information,” Hill added.