As America faces sustained global competition, we must work to maintain our economic edge by encouraging more students to enter the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. In order to maintain our creativity and innovation, we need to promote and empower a more diverse workforce in research and high-tech sectors. One major solution to these challenges lies in the remarkable achievements and cultural contributions of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Since 1837, HBCUs have trained generations of African American students and scholars. The economic benefits of HBCUs extend beyond the students they educate. They’re equally important to the local and regional economies served by these institutions. Although Indiana does not have its own HBCU, the enormous impact of these institutions is felt strongly through the many HBCU alumni who contribute to our community.
Most recently, there are nearly 300,000 future scientists, teachers, entrepreneurs and researchers preparing for their professional endeavors at more than 100 HBCUs throughout the country. HBCUs account for 17% of all bachelor degrees earned by African Americans and 24% of the degrees earned by African Americans in the STEM fields. HBCUs have an inspiring past and a dynamic present in their unique role of raising up new academic leaders against the legacy of Jim Crow and decades of persistent and systemic racism. Annually, HBCUs support 134,000 jobs and provide $14.8 billion in economic output.
Starting at Tuskegee Institute with Dr. George Washington Carver, who began groundbreaking research on crops like peanuts and sweet potatoes and in other life sciences, these important institutions have strengthened America’s scientific workforce. NASA utilized Tuskegee’s work in hydroponic research on the space shuttle to help address hunger issues here on Earth and space farming in the future.
The amazing work done at these schools has also been supported by investments through the Department of Defense, which has helped HBCUs contribute some of the most cutting-edge defense and national security research in the country.
To advance these efforts, I introduced an appropriations amendment in the House that would increase the funding level to HBCUs by $4 million above current levels. My amendment, which passed the House on June 19, 2019, the 154th anniversary of Juneteenth, will increase the Department of Defense’s investments in the physical sciences, mathematics and engineering programs at HBCUs and the national security benefits they provide.
Armed with these continued investments, HBCUs will be able to maintain their unique role in strengthening important national security initiatives. For example, these programs support research in mobile computers that can be deployed to aid our servicemen and servicewomen on the battlefield. Additionally, they are also helping to improve the way our intelligence community classifies and manages large infrared photographs taken on important reconnaissance missions. I urge my Senate colleagues to match this increased funding level, so we can ensure that these programs have the tools and resources they need to succeed.
Growing our nation’s investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities is a critical part of enriching our culture and economy, along with strengthening our national security for future generations. I’m grateful that my amendment is able to advance both of these worthy goals that respond to the unique challenges of the 21st century.
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Rep. Carson represents the 7th District of Indiana. He is a Member of the Congressional Black Caucus and one of three Muslims in Congress. Rep. Carson sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, where he is chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and Counterproliferation. Contact Rep. Carson at carson.house.gov/contact.