It's well-documented that Historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions have long been underfunded.
President Joe Biden, as a candidate, pledged to address the financial shortcomings these institutions face and make education more affordable for their students. Experts told PolitiFact that Biden made notable strides toward this goal, although his promise is far from fulfilled.
"I can see the progress that he makes on a daily basis. I just can't see as much of the progress from Congress," said Lodriguez Murray, the United Negro College Fund's vice president of public policy and government affairs. "They have more to do in terms of making sure that the century and a half of underfunding of historically Black colleges and universities get alleviated to the point where those students, from an affordability standpoint, are made whole."
The American Rescue Plan that Biden signed into law in 2021 provided more than $2.6 billion to historically Black colleges and universities, about $190 million to tribal colleges and universities and more than $6 billion to minority-serving institutions, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
These institutions directed some of those federal funds toward economic relief for their students and toward programs to cancel student debt accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, the Department of Education also provided more than $1.6 billion in debt relief to historically Black colleges and universities participating in the HBCU Capital Financing program and $500 million in grant funding to minority-serving institutions.
Biden's promise to raise the maximum value of the Pell Grant also increased the affordability of historically Black colleges and universities, said Jared Bass, senior director of higher education policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning public policy think tank.
In 2022, Biden enacted the largest Pell Grant increase in over a decade. According to the United Negro College Fund, about 70% of students attending historically Black colleges and universities are Pell Grant-eligible.
Bass told PolitiFact that increased federal funding to historically Black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions can offset revenue shortcomings that otherwise might have been passed on to their students through tuition increases.
But some of Biden's other proposals to invest in minority-serving institutions have been less successful. For example, a version of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act initially included tuition assistance and grants for historically Black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions.
But, the bill's final version did not include any of those proposed investments.
"I would give President Biden an A in terms of making sure that historically Black colleges and universities are included in his legislative proposals," said Murray. "Congress doesn't get the same grade for making sure the money makes it through the federal appropriations process."
We'll continue to monitor Biden's promise to make minority-serving institutions more affordable. So far, we rate this pledge In the Works.