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Graduate-level STEM at HBCUs, PBIs would get boost with GRAD Act

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The Growing Reputable Academic Departments (GRAD) Act would help bolster graduate-level STEM programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs).

Historically, HBCUs and PBIs are underfunded and behind non-HBCUs by at least 70 percent. HBCUs and PBIs saw a drastic increase between 2002 and 2019 in philanthropic and foundation support.

Congresswomen Jennifer McClellan of Virginia and Alma Adams of North Carolina introduced the legislation last week with co-sponsors U.S. Reps. Troy Carter of Louisiana, Yvette Clark of New York, Sylvia Garcia of Texas, Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington D.C., Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Donald Payne Jr. of New Jersey and Terri Sewell of Alabama.

“Virginia’s Fourth is home to two HBCUs, Virginia Union University and Virginia State University, which have helped prepare generations of leaders in our Commonwealth. Our nation’s HBCUs and PBIs serve as crucial academic and social institutions for Black Americans and help historically marginalized communities circumvent long-standing barriers to higher education,” McClellan said. “They empower countless first-generation college students and serve as hubs that help drive American innovation and advancement; however, they suffer from a systemic lack of funding and support. I am proud to introduce the GRAD Act to help address these disparities and strengthen graduate-level STEM research at HBCUs and PBIs. This legislation will provide a lifeline to these prestigious institutions and help improve representation in STEM-related fields.”

The legislation is endorsed by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the United Negro College Fund.

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Predominantly Black Institutions do exceptional work to prepare the leaders of the future for careers in STEM education and produce an outsized number of Black graduates with degrees in STEM fields. We should expand on that success,” Adams, founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional HBCU Caucus, said. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Growing Reputable Academic Departments Act or GRAD Act with Congresswoman McClellan. This legislation would expand the number of HBCUs and PBIs eligible to receive federal funding for graduate-level STEM programs. The GRAD Act is the next big step for equity in higher education and will provide critical support not only to academic institutions, but also to the students and communities they serve.”

Virginia Union University is the oldest HBCU in the Commonwealth.

“This legislation will open up new pathways for HBCUs to serve more students, especially those who are the first in their families to study at the graduate level,” Virginia Union University President Dr. Hakim J. Lucas said. “The timing is right and the need is real, as rising enrollment drives Virginia Union and other universities to expand graduate-level programs. Virginia Union applauds Congresswoman McClellan for her leadership, and we look forward to helping her pass this bill into law.”

According to Dr. Makola M. Abdullah, president of Virginia State University, which is one of the country’s top universities producing STEM graduates, especially computer science graduates, the additional funding will support continuous efforts to provide an even greater post-graduate STEM educational experience.

“We applaud the tremendous work of Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan and Rep. Alma Adam as they continue to have a major impact through their tireless efforts to encourage our success and ensure the continued transformative opportunities offered by VSU and all HBCUs and PBIs,” Abdullah said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.