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House Approves Byrne Bill to Improve Infrastructure at HBCUs

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Monday, July 11, the US House of Representatives approved a bipartisan bill introduced by Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) and Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-North Carolina) that would help improve infrastructure for our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

The House approved HR5530, the HBCU Capital Financing Improvement Act by a unanimous vote.

Rep. Byrne said on the floor of the House, “HR5530 is one of a number of bills on the floor today with a common purpose: improving our country’s higher education system—something that has been a priority of mine for a very long time.”

Rep. Byrne said, “As a member of the Alabama State Board of Education and Chancellor of the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education, I worked to ensure the schools in our state were preparing students to succeed. As a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, I have continued that focus and worked to deliver solutions that will provide all students with the quality education they deserve. And that’s why I stand here today.”

Rep. Byrne said that HR5530, “Reforms a program known as the HBCU Capital Financing Program. Congress created this program to provide Historically Black Colleges and Universities with low-cost capital they can use to make infrastructure improvements. It acts as a loan guarantee program so that these institutions can finance or refinance repairs, renovations, and construction on their campuses.”

The conservative Alabama Congressman said, “HR5530 will improve access to the HBCU Capital Financing Program by helping schools better understand the resources available to them. It will also strengthen oversight of the program, reinforcing the duties of its advisory board by requiring it to report annually to Congress on the program’s financial health. These are simple reforms that will help HBCUs better serve their students and ensure taxpayer dollars are being well spent.”

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Congressman Byrne and Congresswoman Adams are the co-chairs of the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus.

According to information provided by Representative Byrne’s office, the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Capital Financing Program was created by Congress to provide low-cost capital to finance improvements to campus infrastructure at HBCUs. The program acts as a loan guarantee program to ensure these institutions can finance repairs, renovations, and construction of critical campus buildings. The federal government guarantees the payment of principal and interest on qualified bonds, the proceeds of which are used for loans to participating HBCUs. Currently, 40 HBCUs contribute to the $1.1 billion program, and the typical loan is between $10 million and $20 million. The program’s Advisory Board was created to inform the Department of Education on the capital needs of HBCUs, how those needs can be met through the program, a program can be improved. While the board is required to meet at least twice a year, it has only met a handful of times since the program was created in 1992. Additionally, the department is reluctant to advise these institutions on how to apply and maintain a capital improvement loan.

Byrne and Adams HBCU Capital Financing Act is designed to improve the HBCU Capital Financing Program. The bill will enable the Department of Education to help schools better understand the resources available to them. The bill also reinforces the duties of the Advisory Board by requiring it to report to Congress annually on the program’s financial health.

The sponsors claim that the legislation will improve the HBCU Capital Financing program by requiring the Advisory Board to send an annual report to Congress, providing an overview of all loans in the program to assist in assessing its usefulness and continued viability. The report will also include administrative and legislative recommendations for further improvements to the program.

HR5530 will also rename the escrow account to “bond insurance fund” to better reflect its purpose and allows for financial counseling to potentially eligible HBCUs to assist them in the preparation to qualify for, apply for, and maintain a capital improvement loan.

Congressman Byrne and Congresswoman Adams are the co-chairs of the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus.

Alabama is home to a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. During segregation, Blacks were not admitted to most of America’s “historically White” colleges and universities. The HBCUs were founded so that Blacks (at that time many of them former slaves or the children of former slaves) could get access to higher education.

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Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.

 

Written By

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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