Senate Education Chair blocks bipartisan bill to extend HBCU funding

Charlene Crowell, Deputy Communications Director for the Center for Responsible Lending | 10/4/2019, 8:09 a.m.
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“Congress has the time to do this,” said Sen. Alexander on the floor of the Senate. “While the legislation expires at the end of September, the U.S. Department of Education has sent a letter assuring Congress that there is enough funding for the program to continue through the next fiscal year.”

Alexander concluded his comments by using his remarks to push for a limited set of policy proposals that would amend the Higher Education Act piece by piece.

His comments prompt a more basic question: Why is it that Congress has failed to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) for so many years?

Competing HEA legislative proposals with different notions have been bandied about since 2014. Most of these ideas were variations of promises for improved access, affordability, and accountability, simplified financial aid applications and appropriate levels of federal support.

Yet, for families faced with a financial tug of war between rising costs of college and stagnant incomes, Congress’ failure to act on higher education translates into more student loans, and longer years of repayment.

The same day as Senator Alexander’s block of the bill, Wil Del Pilar, vice president of higher education at The Education Trust, a national nonprofit that works to close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income families, reacted with a statement.

“The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) is of vital importance to millions of students who currently struggle to afford college, lack adequate supports while enrolled, and are underserved by a system that perpetuates racial inequity,” said Pilar. “Students need a federal policy overhaul that addresses these issues and acts to close racial and socioeconomic equity gaps, and they can’t afford to wait any longer.”

Ashley Harrington, a Senior Policy Counsel with the Center for Responsible Lending agreed adding “College is only getting more expensive every year, student borrowers are struggling to make payments, and servicers and for-profit colleges are getting free rein to mistreat their customers and students. As this crisis exacerbates the racial wealth gap and constrains an entire generation of taxpayers, we need a real plan to address these important issues. We hope Senator Alexander reconsiders his position of holding hostage funding for HBCUs, Minority Serving Institutions and the students of color that they serve.”

Senator Alexander, here’s hoping you are listening.

Charlene Crowell is the Deputy Communications Director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at