President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan bill on Thursday, Dec. 19, that will provide the nation’s historically black colleges and universities with over $250 million per year indefinitely, along with hundreds of other institutions that serve large shares of minority students.
In signing the bill, the president said historically black schools have “never had better champions in the White House.”
“When I took office, I promised to fight for HBCUs, and my administration continues to deliver,” Trump said. “A few months ago, funding for HBCUs was in jeopardy. But the White House and Congress came together and reached a historic agreement.”
Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, thanked Trump and the thousands of advocates supporting the bill.
“We enlisted more than 20,000 supporters to write and call their members of Congress,” Lomax said. “This activated army of advocates became the frontline of support for HBCUs, and they won the battle for our institutions.”
The legislation restores annual funding of $255 million that lapsed on Sept. 30 after Congress refused to extend it. Many schools have started making deep cuts in the face of an end to the funding, with some warning workers that their jobs or services would be scrapped.
However, the Senate recently reached a bipartisan agreement that saved the funding. Their compromise added an amendment that would simplify the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form that college students fill out to determine their eligibility for financial assistance.
The legislation will allow the Department of Education to collect certain information directly from the IRS, eliminating up to 22 of the 108 questions in the form. It is also intended to curtail a verification process that some families face in order to ensure that they provide the same information to the IRS and the Department of Education.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate’s education committee, called the legislation a “Christmas present for college students and their families.”
“This bipartisan provision stops families from having to give their same tax information to the federal government twice—first to the IRS, then again to the U.S. Department of Education,” Alexander said. “It should eliminate most of the so-called verification process, which is a bureaucratic nightmare that 5.5 million students go through annually.”
The legislation, known as the Future Act, also received praise from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who called it a “historic bill” that represents the dedication of the administration to education.
The FAFSA simplifications are estimated to save $2.8 billion over a decade, which will be used to provide $255 million annually to minority institutions.
The bill allows $85 million a year for historically black colleges and universities, along with $100 million for Hispanic institutions, $30 million for tribal schools, and $40 million for a variety of other minority institutions.
The money is primarily intended to expand programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The House and Senate both voted to approve final changes to the bill Dec. 10. It was applauded as a rare instance of cooperation in a Congress that has remained deeply divided over many issues.
Includes reporting from the Associated Press