HBCU Infrastructure Bill Expanded to Include All Minority-Serving Colleges

Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina is leading an effort to pass the revamped IGNITE Excellence Act before the next Congress is sworn in next year.
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  • The initial IGNITE Excellence Act attracted over 200 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Despite the support, the bill's sponsor introduced a new, more expansive version to get it over the hump.
  • The bill would provide grants to minority-serving institutions to improve infrastructure and fund research projects.

A new version of the IGNITE Excellence Act expands the proposed grant program to all minority-serving institutions (MSIs), not just historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The IGNITE HBCU, TCU, and MSI Excellence Act, as it is now dubbed, would create grant priorities to help "level set" MSIs to keep up with their predominantly white institution (PWI) peers.

Lodriguez Murray, senior vice president of public policy at the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), told BestColleges that it was "made clear" to the bill's sponsor, U.S. Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina, that her original proposal aimed solely at HBCUs would not move forward unless she expanded its scope.

The original IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act, proposed in May 2021, attracted 219 co-sponsors. That's just over 50% of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rep. Adams' new IGNITE Excellence Act sets out to create many of the same funding priorities as her original proposal. This new bill would also include:

  • Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs)
  • Tribal colleges and universities (TCUs)
  • Alaska Native-serving institutions
  • Predominantly Black institutions
  • Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions

Murray of UNCF said the bill's focus is to improve infrastructure at MSI campuses.

"HBCUs have exhaustive infrastructure needs that are necessary to address because there are systemic issues in society that prevent them from addressing those needs on their own," he told BestColleges.

Universities could use funds to update research facilities, for example. Murray said there are currently no HBCUs with an R1 research designation, and he hopes the IGNITE Excellence Act could provide the funds these institutions need to update research facilities to reach this top level.

Grants could also go toward constructing buildings for new programs, improving on-campus dorms, and giving long-neglected buildings a facelift, he said.

The IGNITE Excellence Act doesn't have an attached price tag since funding would depend on yearly appropriations.

However, Murray pointed out that President Joe Biden's latest budget proposal included $450 million in funds for four-year HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs to expand research and development capabilities. The House of Representatives budget proposal did not match that figure but was "well over" 50% of Biden's proposal, he said.

He added that the goal is to get this newer IGNITE Excellence Act passed before the next Congress is sworn in in January.

"We think that it is a necessity that this bill passes this Congress," Murray said. "It's not something to visit next year; this is needed now."

Following midterm elections, Congress will often meet to wrap up unfinished business. Known as a "lame duck" session, it could be the IGNITE Excellence Act's best chance at passing in the near future.