HBCUs, Other Minority-Serving Institutions to Get $10B Through Build Back Better

Biden's spending plan prioritizes funding for HBCUs, tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving schools.
portrait of Matthew Arrojas
Matthew Arrojas
Read Full Bio


Matthew Arrojas is a news reporter at BestColleges covering higher education issues and policy. He previously worked as the hospitality and tourism news reporter at the South Florida Business Journal. He also covered higher education policy issues as...
Updated on November 10, 2021
Learn more about our editorial process

  • Minority-serving institutions are one of Biden's top priorities in his budget bill.
  • The plan includes $3 billion in research grants for these institutions.
  • It does not, however, include sweeping financial aid like originally planned.

Minority-serving colleges and universities, including historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), are slated to gain significant funding through the Build Back Better Act.

President Joe Biden's spending plan allocates $10 billion for HBCUs, tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). The funds from the plan would go directly to schools and provide research grants.

The Build Back Better Act is currently still making its way through Congress and is subject to changes before passing. But here's where funding stands now.

A Cash Injection for HBCUs, Minority-Serving Schools

As of now, MSIs are slated to receive $6 billion in direct institutional aid through the Build Back Better Act, according to a Democratic staffer.

HBCUs are guaranteed $2 billion from that pot of money, while the rest will be distributed among the remaining types of qualifying institutions. In the current version of the bill, those funds would be doled out over the next five years beginning at the start of the 2022 fiscal year.

Qualifying institutions would be able to use those funds as they saw fit, including to provide financial aid for students.

It seems, however, that Biden's plan to subsidize the first two years of a student's time at an MSI will not make it into the final version of the economic plan. Biden originally proposed a $39 billion program to help students afford their first 60 credits at a qualifying MSI, but that appears off the table. The tuition assistance program is still in the November 3 version of the bill, but multiple statements indicate student aid will instead be folded into the $6 billion in funding going directly to the institutions.

HBCU advocacy leaders seem content with the amount planned to be awarded to these schools, even with the cut.

"HBCUs are convinced that we have been heard by the Biden-Harris White House in this process," Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, said in a statement. "As legislative details unfold, we are increasingly encouraged and feel much more positive about our position in the Build Back Better agenda."

Grants to Advance Research Projects

HBCUs, TCUs, and other MSIs are slated to receive another $4 billion in research and development grants, the Democratic aide said. The Committee on Education and Labor will contribute $3 billion, while the remaining $1 billion will come from the Committee on Agriculture.

Institutions will have to compete against similar institutions for at least the $3 billion from Education and Labor. For example, HBCUs will vie for grants against other HBCUs, while TCUs will compete against other TCUs.

Only four-year institutions will be eligible for these grants, according to the bill. The school must also not be classified as having "very high research activity" by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The bill originally stated that priority would be given to schools that received less than $10 million in federal research grants the previous year, but that has been struck from the Build Back Better Act, the aide said.

The Secretary of Education will award both planning and implementation research grants from this fund, as well. The implementation grants can be used to improve infrastructure to conduct research, hire personnel and interns, provide new programs of study to support the research, and expand certain on-site facilities.

Substantial Investments, but Less Than Promised

The Build Back Better Act marks the largest investment in MSIs in the country's history, according to a statement from Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert Scott.

In some areas, however, it's less than Biden originally proposed in the first draft of his spending plan. He first proposed a $39 billion program to subsidize the first two years of tuition for students attending an MSI, $5 billion in institutional aid grants, and $2 billion directed toward building a skilled pipeline of healthcare workers with graduate degrees.

HBCUs and similar institutions will receive more direct funding under the most recent draft, but there is less student support.

"We know we cannot undo more than one hundred years of discrimination and neglect in just a few years," Scott said in the statement. "We will have more opportunities this year to build on the investments we've already secured."

Featured Image: fstop123 / E+ / Getty Images