1-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE HBCU CAUCUS
(House of Representatives - April 28, 2016)

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[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 66 (Thursday, April 28, 2016)]
[Pages H2102-H2104]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                 1-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE HBCU CAUCUS

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 6, 2015, the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Byrne) is recognized 
for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.
  Mr. BYRNE. Mr. Speaker, it is my great privilege and honor today to 
be a part of a Special Order on the 1-year anniversary of the 
bipartisan HBCU Caucus. For those who are listening or who are 
watching, let me make sure you understand that HBCU stands for 
Historically Black Colleges and Universities. That is what we will be 
talking about today.
  I am the co-chair of this caucus, along with a Member of this body 
who came up with this idea and who has spearheaded this effort from the 
very beginning--she is the spirit behind it--Congresswoman Alma Adams 
from the great State of North Carolina.
  I yield to Congresswoman Adams so that she may speak to this House 
and to the Nation about the importance of this topic and about the 
importance of HBCUs to the United States of America.
  Ms. ADAMS. I thank Congressman Byrne. I appreciate the gentleman's 
yielding to me and his work with this caucus.
  Mr. Speaker, today marks the first anniversary of the bipartisan 
Congressional Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus, 
known by many as the HBCU Caucus.
  As a retired 40-year educator from Bennett College in Greensboro, 
North Carolina, I have always believed that every young person who 
desires a college education should get that opportunity. Like many of 
the young people I taught at Bennett College for those four decades of 
my academic career, my story is one of perseverance.
  I was a first-generation college student at North Carolina A&T. I 
came to school like so many students today--not fully prepared to do 
college work. A&T gave me a chance because it believed in opportunity 
and the fundamental importance of education that W.E.B. Du Bois spoke 
about when he said: ``Of all the civil rights for which the world has 
struggled and fought for 5,000 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly 
the most fundamental.'' That is why I advocate for HBCUs, for they 
advocated for me, and they invested in my success.
  There are more than 100 HBCUs in the United States that enroll more 
than 300,000 students per year. HBCUs are taking our students in--
students like me and like you--from diverse backgrounds and are giving 
them a chance, a chance that other schools might not have given them. 
Many HBCU students are often like I was--first generation from low-
income families--so we must ensure that all students, including those 
from economically strained backgrounds, have access to a high-quality 
education and are equipped with the knowledge and the 21st century 
skills that they need to succeed. HBCUs do just that for so many 
students. HBCUs represent 3 percent of colleges and universities; yet 
we graduate 20 percent of African Americans with undergraduate degrees 
and 50 percent of African American educators. Despite these facts, 
HBCUs have historically been underfunded.
  There are many unique challenges that HBCUs and the students they 
serve face. Many students don't have the luxury of being supported 
through school. Some have to work their way through, taking breaks 
along the way. It is imperative then that we work together to ensure 
that these institutions not only have the resources that are necessary 
to encourage enrollment and increase the graduation rates among these 
students, but also that they are capable of preparing these young 
people for the workforce. That is why I launched the first bipartisan 
Congressional HBCU Caucus with my Republican co-chair and former 
Alabama Community College System Chancellor, Congressman Bradley Byrne 
from Alabama.
  Representative Byrne, I thank you for being my co-chair. It is a 
pleasure to serve our HBCUs alongside of you.
  The purpose of the caucus is to create a national dialogue so as to 
educate other Members of Congress and their staffs about the issues 
that impact HBCUs as well as to address the needs of HBCUs and to 
support the students and graduates of these institutions by increasing 
access and career opportunities. With the help of Representative Byrne, 
we have grown the caucus to 56 members now, from both sides of the 
aisle, over the course of this year. I am proud to announce that the 
caucus is now bicameral and has the support of my home State Senator, 
Richard Burr of North Carolina.
  Those of us in Congress have more to learn from our HBCU institutions 
and from the students who attend them. That is why, when we first 
launched the caucus, our first goal was to listen, and we did just 
that--we listened. We have held several staff briefings on various 
topics that impact HBCUs. I hosted a roundtable in my district with 
presidents and representatives from 10 HBCUs in the 12th District of 
North Carolina. I hosted a roundtable in my district, as well, with the 
former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as well as with presidents 
and representatives from HBCUs in the 12th District to make sure that 
their needs were heard. We hosted a diversity in the workforce event 
with Fortune 500 companies to discuss the role HBCUs play in graduating 
a skilled and diverse workforce while learning more about the programs 
that are currently available to improve diversity at these companies. 
We surveyed members of the caucus and Members of Congress to find out 
what their priorities are for the reauthorization of the Higher 
Education Act, and we hosted conference calls with chancellors and 
presidents for their input. At the start of this year, we held a caucus 
meeting with the new Secretary of Education, Dr. John King, Jr., in 
order to share those priorities with him.
  Caucus members have been steadfast in crafting legislation to 
positively impact our HBCUs, which I am proud to support, from the 
America's College Promise Act, which would grant any first-time student 
access to community college for free and sets aside special funding for 
HBCUs and other institutions that serve many low-income, first-
generation college students, to the HBCU Historic Preservation Program, 
which would reauthorize funds for the preservation and restoration of 
historic buildings on these campuses.
  Recently, I introduced the HBCU Innovation Fund Act, which would 
provide $250 million in competitive grants to these schools across the 
country in order to develop critical solutions to meet current and 
emerging needs, like student retention and improving graduation rates; 
but this is just the start, and it is, clearly, not the end of our work 
to support HBCUs.
  Many of the members of this bipartisan HBCU Caucus have long been 
champions for education and for our schools. This bipartisan caucus is 
just another step in the right direction as we join forces across the 
aisle so that we can truly make a difference and deliver for our HBCUs: 
from Assistant Democratic Leader Clyburn, who works to protect 
institutions like South Carolina State and who has helped start Centers 
of Excellence, which have had a tremendous impact on students in his 
State; to my ranking member on Education and the Workforce, 
Representative Bobby Scott, who has used his leadership position to be 
a national voice for all HBCUs and institutions of higher learning; to 
Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a leader in STEM education and a 
steadfast voice for our students--and HBCUs in particular.

  To Congressional Black Caucus chair and my colleague from North 
Carolina, Representative G.K. Butterfield, I thank him for making HBCUs 
a priority for our Congressional Black Caucus and for Congress.
  To our Democrat vice chairs--Representative Bennie Thompson and 
Representative Terri Sewell--and our Republican vice chairs--
Representatives Bruce Westerman and Randy Forbes--who have all been 
fierce advocates for HBCUs in their districts, and to my colleagues--
Representatives Cedric Richmond and Corrine Brown--

[[Page H2103]]

who are co-chairs of the CBC's HBCUs task force, they have all put 
HBCUs first and have brought Members and the administration to the 
table to highlight the issues of concern.
  Thank you to all of these Members for doing this good work and for 
bringing their expertise to the HBCU Caucus, because we couldn't do it 
without strong leaders in our communities who represent these 
institutions.
  The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, an organization that supports the 
47 publicly supported HBCUs, and the Thurgood Marshall Foundation 
played a critical role in the caucus' inception, and their very own 
president, Johnny Taylor, was the host for the caucus launch.
  Thank you as well to the United Negro College Fund, which works to 
support the 37-member private Historically Black Colleges and 
Universities. The UNCF has been instrumental in widening the caucus' 
reach and has helped provide more than $4.5 billion to help more than 
400,000 students get college degrees. So we thank Dr. Lomax and all of 
those who work with him.
  To the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher 
Education, NAFEO, which has also remained a key advocate for our HBCUs 
and our students, thank you to that organization and, also, to Lezli 
Baskerville.
  I also congratulate the 1890 land grant institutions on their 125th 
anniversary last year. I was honored to participate in the House 
Agriculture Committee's hearing, in July, with the presidents and 
leaders of those universities, and I look forward to continuing to work 
with these organizations.
  We have come a long way this year, but with this crisis still 
existing in education and with those facing our HBCUs, we still have a 
long road ahead of us; so I look forward to growing this partnership 
with Representative Byrne and with more Members from both Chambers and 
from both sides of the aisle. We can continue to collectively work 
together in a bipartisan fashion to make a difference for our HBCUs and 
to protect and advance the students they serve.

                              {time}  1615

  Mr. BYRNE. Mr. Speaker, I can't say enough about the leadership on 
this issue that Congresswoman Adams has provided. She just did a 
terrific job of explaining to us all not just the progress that we have 
made over the last year, but the promise we have in the years to come 
to take this area and continue to move forward on it.
  What a rich tradition we have in this country with Historically Black 
Colleges and Universities. I come from the State of Alabama. We are 
justifiably proud of the great institutions in our State. I can only 
tell you about a few, but let's start with probably our flagship, which 
is Tuskegee University, worldwide famous and well known for so many 
different things.
  It is not just what its history is, although it is a rich and storied 
industry. It is also what it continues to do today and what Tuskegee 
will do in the future to enrich the lives of hundreds, yet tens of 
thousands, of people who have gone on in their lives and will go on in 
their lives to do great things for our State of Alabama and for the 
United States of America.
  I am blessed in my district to have Bishop State Community College. 
Bishop State is one of the public community colleges in the State of 
Alabama. It was under my jurisdiction when I was the chancellor of 
post-secondary education. It is rich in its own history with an 
incredibly important mission in our rapidly growing economy in the 
Mobile area of providing the trained workforce for all of the business 
and industry that have been coming and is already there in our 
district.
  So Bishop State stands as a great symbol to me not just of what we 
are, but of what we can be as we work with these institutions 
throughout my State of Alabama, throughout the South, and throughout 
the Nation.
  I stand here not as a Black person, not as a Democrat, because this 
is not a White or Black issue. This is not a Democratic or a Republican 
issue. This is an American issue. This is about providing opportunity 
for everyone in America.
  So often we talk about opportunity. Here is an example of where we 
are doing something about opportunity. We can open all the doors we 
want in America, but if the people of America or a small portion of the 
people of America can't walk through those doors, then we don't have 
real opportunity.
  This Congress has few opportunities to really do the things that need 
to be done to help people. Here is one. Here is one where we can really 
do something that will make a tremendous difference.
  Congresswoman Adams really put her finger on it. There are many 
people that go to HBCUs who didn't get there with the sort of support 
that they needed, who didn't get there with the sort of academic 
preparation that they needed.
  Now, we can say: Oh, well. That is their problem and they just have 
to find some way to deal with it. Or we can understand that that is not 
just a problem for them, but that is a problem for all of us.
  If we can work with them and help them with those problems through 
the programs that we have at these HBCUs, not only have we given that 
individual an opportunity to lift themselves up, but as they lift 
themselves up, they lift up our communities and they lift up our 
Nation.
  So I was very honored when Congresswoman Adams came to me to ask me 
to participate in this very, very worthy endeavor with her. I know we 
have done some great things over the last year, but that is just a 
foretaste of what we can do in the years to come with her inspiration 
and with her leadership.
  We have a number of great members in this caucus. One of our most 
steadfast members is one of the great leaders from the State of 
Florida, Representative Gwen Graham.
  I yield to the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Graham) for her to come 
forward and present to us her own background and her own feelings about 
HBCUs.
  Ms. GRAHAM. Mr. Speaker, I thank Congressman Byrne and Congresswoman 
Adams for hosting today's Special Order and for all you do to support 
our Nation's Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
  It was such an honor for me to join this caucus as a founding member 
with you a year ago. It is hard to believe it has already been a year. 
I am proud of the bipartisan work we have done on behalf of our HBCUs.
  There are more than 100 HBCUs in the United States that enroll more 
than 300,000 students per year. HBCUs represent 3 percent of colleges 
and universities, yet graduate 20 percent of African Americans with 
undergraduate degrees and 25 percent of African American degrees in 
science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
  In my district, I am so proud to represent Florida Agricultural and 
Mechanical University, one of our State's most historic and important 
universities. Florida A&M--or FAMU, as it is more affectionately known 
in north Florida--was founded in 1887 with just 15 students and 2 
instructors. Let me just say: Go Rattlers.
  Today the university has grown to enroll nearly 10,000 students, and 
it was named by the U.S. News & World Report as the top public 
Historically Black College and Universities in the entire Nation for 
2015.
  It is also listed among The Princeton Review's Best in the Southeast 
Colleges and is one of the top picks for providing a high-quality 
education at an affordable price in Florida, according to The College 
Database. And FAMU is the Nation's top producer of African Americans at 
the bachelor degree level.
  It is such an honor for me to represent FAMU and to join the HBCU 
caucus in supporting all of our Nation's Historically Black Colleges 
and Universities and the wonderful students who attend them.
  Again, I thank Congressman Byrne and Congresswoman Adams for hosting 
this Special Order.
  Mr. BYRNE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Florida for her 
leadership on this issue and so many issues. It is so important that we 
have the understanding, each of us, of the institutions in our own 
district. She talked about Florida A&M, a great institution of higher 
education in her district.
  Part of what we hope to do in the caucus is to educate every Member 
in

[[Page H2104]]

this body about the institutions in their districts and--perhaps they 
don't have any institutions in their district--about institutions 
across America that are HBCUs and what they have done for their 
communities and what they have done for the United States of America 
and continue to do every day.
  I am very blessed to have been able to work with a number of HBCUs in 
Alabama in my prior positions in the State school board and as a 
chancellor of post-secondary education. I must admit I didn't know very 
much about them before I was in those positions.
  But as I learned about them, as I got to know the administration and 
the faculty, but, most importantly, the students at those institutions, 
I realized what a rich resource that is for those students and for the 
communities that they are founded in.
  You look around the country at some of the great graduates of these 
institutions and you realize where would we have been without the 
HBCUs, particularly during a period of time when African Americans were 
denied access to regular institutions of higher education because of 
discrimination in American society.

  Just because we have made progress in that regard doesn't mean that 
we have ended the need for HBCUs. In many ways, the need has never been 
greater, because what we need in our society from the people in our 
society--in order to perform at the levels that our economy requires, 
it requires ever greater levels of education, training, and expertise. 
What might have been enough to know 50 years ago, we need to know far 
more now and we need to know it at every level of education.
  We are here today to talk about colleges and universities. Some of 
the great colleges and universities in America have understood the 
importance of this and have rallied around our cause. I will never 
forget our kickoff day when we had the chancellor of the University of 
North Carolina system here, one of the great university statewide 
systems that we have in this country, as a recognition of those 
universities and the role that HBCUs play along with them in providing 
higher education to people throughout the United States of America.
  The United Negro College Fund says that a mind is a terrible thing to 
waste. A great country cannot waste any mind. We need every mind in 
America to get whatever they need to become the person that they want 
to become, to realize their dreams, as I said earlier, not only to lift 
themselves up, but to lift the rest of us up with them. That is what we 
are talking about when we talk about HBCUs.
  I thank the gentlewoman from North Carolina again for her leadership, 
for her inspiration, for her continuing to be somebody out there to 
tell us that we need to keep pushing, we need to keep pushing. As long 
as she is willing to continue to do that, I am willing to continue to 
do that with her.
  I yield back the balance of my time.

                          ____________________