Coons, Carper help gain permanent funding for HBCUs

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a bipartisan agreement on Thursday that was brokered by Sen. Chris Coons and several leading Republican and Democratic senators, also supported by Sen. Tom Carper, to make permanent $255 million in annual funding for historically black colleges and universities and minority serving institutions like Delaware State University.

The legislation will also simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, for 20 million American families, and streamline income-driven repayment for nearly 8 million borrowers. Funding for the institutions had lapsed on Sept. 30.

“This is a historic day for Delaware State University and HBCUs across the country, which have played a critical role in helping to ensure that every Delawarean and every American is able to access higher education,” Sen. Coons said. “HBCUs like Delaware State are among our nation’s most important and cherished institutions, and I’m proud that we were able to reach a bipartisan agreement to permanently provide them with the federal funding they deserve.

“This bill doesn’t only support DSU and HBCUs — it will also simplify the federal student aid process so that millions of American students can access the federal student aid available to them.”

Sens. Carper and Coons have been outspoken in their support of funding for Delaware State University and HBCUs.

In November, Sens. Carper and Coons joined 34 of their colleagues in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to call for immediate passage of the FUTURE Act reauthorization bill.

They both spoke on the Senate floor late last month urging Senators on both sides of the aisle to support the permanent funding extension. In October, Sen. Carper hosted a roundtable at DSU to discuss critical funding for HBCUs and urged Congress to immediately extend funding.

“I’m pleased that this bipartisan agreement is now one step closer to being signed into law,” Sen. Carper said. “It will bring permanent federal funding to Delaware State University and other HBCUs across the country and enable these universities to focus on what they do best: educating our students in the classroom and preparing them for lasting careers in today’s workforce.”

The legislation that passed on Thursday included:

•Permanently reauthorizes and provides $255 million in annual mandatory funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions

•Is fully paid for by including the FAFSA Act which passed the Senate unanimously last year and which:

•Allows providing tax information only once – Students do not have to give their tax information to the federal government twice

•Eliminates up to 22 questions – Students give permission to the Department of Education to request tax return data already given to the Internal Revenue Service, which reduces the 108 questions on the FAFSA by up to 22 questions

•Eliminates verification nightmare – For most students, eliminates so-called “verification” which is a bureaucratic nightmare that 5.5 million students go through annually to make sure the information they gave to the Department of Education is exactly the same as they gave to the IRS

•Eliminates $6 billion in mistakes — According to the Department of Education, helps taxpayers by eliminating up to $6 billion each year in mistakes (both overpayments and underpayments) in Pell grants and student loans

•Enables 7 million applicants who are currently unable to access their IRS data for their FAFSA to verify that they do not file taxes without requesting separate documentation from the IRS

•Streamlines student loan repayment by eliminating burdensome annual paperwork for 7.7 million federal student loan borrowers on income-driven plans

•According to the Congressional Budget Office, the FAFSA Act saves taxpayers $2.8 billion over 10 years which will be used to pay for the permanent funding for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.

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