Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

By:  Barack Obama II
Date: May 24, 2007
Location: Washington, DC




S. 1513. A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to authorize grant programs to enhance the access of low-income African-American students to higher education; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, as a college education becomes ever more imperative for economic success, both for individual citizens and for our Nation, a growing number of African-American students enroll in colleges whose mission includes a focus on educating minority students. And, over the years, Congress has acknowledged the important role of similar institutions, recognizing for example, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic Serving Institutions, by establishing grant programs to support their missions. Today, I am introducing legislation to recognize the importance of Predominantly Black Institutions as an essential component of the American system of higher education.

The Predominantly Black Institution designation recognizes urban and rural colleges, many of which are 2-year community or technical colleges, which serve a large proportion of African-American students, most of whom are the first in their families to attend college, and most of whom receive financial aid. These students have already beaten the odds to progress this far, and it is fitting that we offer some support to the institutions they attend, to ensure that the education they receive is worthy of their efforts.

Whereas Predominantly Black Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities both serve African-American students, they differ in ways that necessitate this legislation. Historically Black Colleges and Universities are not required to serve needy students, whereas Predominantly Black Institution must serve at least 50 percent low-income or first-generation college students. Historically Black Colleges and Universities, by definition, were established prior to 1964, whereas PBIs are of more recent origin.

Approximately 75 institutions, and more than a quarter of a million students, would benefit from grants awarded as a result of the Predominantly Black Institution designation. Grants could be used for a variety of purposes, from acquiring laboratory equipment to supporting teacher education to establishing community outreach programs for pre-college students.

Legislation to establish Predominantly Black Institutions was introduced last year by my good friend from Illinois, Congressman DANNY DAVIS. I urge my Senate colleagues to consider the needs of these students, to support their colleges and universities, and to join me in this effort.


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