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Tuskegee University at the 2022 White House HBCU Student Briefing

Virtual White House HBCU Student Briefing

On January 26th, 2022 Tuskegee university participated in the virtual White House HBCU Student Briefing with Marcia Fudge, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The purpose of this briefing was to give HBCU student journalists a platform to inquire about pertinent issues both in the HBCU and student communities. Prior to the event TU students were polled on social media about which issues were most important to them, the top two topics were:

  • Plans to alleviate student debt crisis
  • Lack of development within communities that house HBCUs

Over the course of the briefing, Secretary Fudge went into great detail about both issues, explaining current solutions, highlighting plans in development, and providing advice on actions students can take to assist with these issues within their own communities. 

  • Plans to alleviate Student debt

Secretary Fudge agreed that student loan debt has grown into a large issue especially for black and POC (people of color) students, paralyzing them financially and leading to issues with home ownership later in life. Currently, the Biden administration has focused on providing HBCUs with financial support, which will in turn lower the overall cost of attendance, leading to a decrease in student loan debt for future generations. Secretary Fudge went on to reference the over “$5.8 billion dollars in cumulative investments to HBCUs” by the current administration over the past two years. The investments are reflected through programs such as the American Rescue Plan which assisted in debt relief, facility upkeep, faculty wages, increased Pell grants for HBCUs and so on.

Biden administration is also pushing the Build Better Act, which would ensure a sustained investment into HBCUs with the purpose of assisting issues regarding research and development, infrastructure support, teacher quality funding, and increased Pell grants for HBCU students, along with a $74 million increase in discretionary funding within the fiscal year 2022 budget request. Secretary Fudge urged students to ask university administrations for transparency about how the funds are being spent. Alluding to the $5.8 billion investment made into HBCUs, Secretary Fudge states, “the universities have the resources, the students must ask administration how it is being allocated.” 

  • Lack of development within communities that house HBCUs

When asked about this issue, Secretary Fudge acknowledged the severe disparity in the development within communities of color, especially HBCU communities. She noted the  most efficient solution to underdeveloped communities is promotion of home ownership within upcoming generations. Reaffirming her department’s commitment to building more affordable housing in communities of need, eliminating systemic oppression within the housing sector, and assistance for first time home owners, Secretary Fudge is firm in her belief that the first step to repairing these communities is active home ownership within the community. The current administration has several related initiatives currently being worked on, some of which include “first time home owner education,” “reduced mortgage and support for first time home owners,” “restructuring of the credit and student debt systems,” and “updating laws to prevent unfair housing.” 

While committing to assist with issues like homlessness and fiscal support for struggling communities, she pointed out the current administration’s efforts over the course of the pandemic with renters assistance and the mortgage moratorium as programs of support for struggling communities, specifically the “46 billion dollars allocated for renters assistance over the past two years.” She highlighted that there are currently many programs of support in place for people within struggling communities, with the main issue being, people don’t even know that these programs exist. She implored anyone struggling to research and apply for government support, even if they are unsure about their eligibility. 

In terms of issues like vacant homes and gentrification, Secretary Fudge asserted that they are “responsibility of local governments,” and that the federal government can only assist local governments financially to deal with these issues. It is up to the local administrations to apply and use those financial resources to assist their communities. She urged students to use their voice and raise awareness, and demand action, from their local governments.