NC legislators boost HBCUs as another state budget-writing season begins

HBCU supporters press conference
HBCU supporters press conference

Dr. Paulette Dillard,President of Shaw University, and other HBCU leaders discuss the need for increased support during a May 1, 2024 press conference. (Screenshot from NCGA feed)

St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh could be in line for support from the state legislature as it struggles with financial problems, but it may be in the form of technical help rather than money. 

A news conference organized by the legislature’s bipartisan HBCU Caucus emphasizing the importance of the state’s historically Black colleges and universities was notable for the presence of both private and public school leaders. 

North Carolina has five private and five public HBCUs. NC A&T State University in Greensboro is the largest HBCU in the country. NC A&T released a study last year detailing the university’s $2.4 billion economic impact

“No entity, no single group of colleges do what they do,” said Rep. Abe Jones, a Raleigh Democrat. “Theirs is a mission that must always be supported.”

HBCUs have been historically underfunded.

States underfunded Black land-grant universities compared to their predominantly white counterparts for decades, according to a 2023 federal report. It identified a $2 billion funding gap between NC A&T and NC State University

Republican legislators praised the HBCUs in their districts and noted they have support from both parties. “We might disagree on a lot of things, but this is not one of them,” said Sen. Carl Ford, a Republican who represents Rowan and Stanly counties. 

The legislature has a history of funding private universities, though public universities are the first priority, said Sen. Gladys Robinson, a Guilford County Democrat. Legislators can’t promise St. Aug’s will receive money, “but there are other kinds of support,” she said. 

The IRS filed a $7.9 million tax lien against the university, WRAL has reported.  The university has other unpaid debts and is fighting to keep its accreditation. 

“Don’t count us out,” St. Aug’s interim president Marcus Burgess said at the news conference.

Burgess said the university needs funding for building renovations and construction and for students who need money to complete degree requirements.

Will Guzman, an assistant vice chancellor at NC Central University in Durham, asked to have the school’s cap on out-of-state students lifted from 35% to 50%, if not eliminated altogether. 

He asked for increased funding for the merit-based, four-year, Cheatham-White Scholarship.

He also asked that all high school students, regardless of citizenship status, be allowed to pay in-state tuition at public HBCUs. 

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