Shortchanging HBCUs

Shortchanging HBCUs

The nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been chronically underfunded to the tune of $12.8 billion over the past three decades, according to new analysis by Susan Adams and Hank Tucker of Forbes. The failure of both federal and state governments to fund HBCUs at the same level as their majority-white peer land grant institutions has compounding effects. Over time, HBCUs have faced smaller endowments, lower average earnings for graduates and higher borrowing costs for institutions as a result of government underfunding – a phenomenon that is most pronounced in the Deep South. As Aubri Juhasz of WWNO reports, these institutions are also facing threats of violence nationally and in Louisiana. And as Susan Adams and Hank Tucker explain in Forbes, we can and must do better: 

As America continues its racial reckoning and works to build a more equitable society, addressing the funding disparities of its public HBCUs is an obvious priority. The state legislatures should proactively address the problem and not force the schools to run a legal gauntlet like what happened in Mississippi. There, the three public HBCUs, including Alcorn State, the Black land-grant, won a $500 million settlement from the state in 2002—but only after the schools pursued a funding lawsuit that dragged on for 27 years before being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. That was shameful in 2002—but would be even more shameful in 2022. 

Urgent need for paid leave 
The United States is the only wealthy nation in the world not to provide basic paid family and medical leave for people struggling with illness or celebrating the arrival of a new child. In the absence of federal action, nine states and the District of Columbia have established state paid leave programs. Louisiana lawmakers have consistently failed to do the same. In the wake of the Omicron surge, which has kept record number of people home from work in 2022 according to the latest Census dataKathleen Romig of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes about the urgent need for paid leave:

Nearly two years into the COVID pandemic, it’s clear that when workers lack paid sick leave, it can cause significant harm to them and their families. It can also hurt their co-workers and communities, because financial pressures often lead ill workers to go to work. Two-thirds of hourly workers reported going to work sick in the fall of 2021, primarily for financial reasons, according to recent Harvard University survey results. This contributes to the spread of COVID, particularly of the extremely infectious omicron strain, causing more workers and their families to become ill, worsening the surge in cases, and adding to the strain on hospitals and basic services.

Netflix reels in profits 
Online streaming services have thrived during the Covid-19 pandemic, as families hunkered down at home to contain the spread of the virus. That has translated to big profits for companies like Neftlix, which also benefited from bad federal tax policy that provided tax breaks to corporations while leaving important social investments like paid family leave and enhanced child tax credits unfunded. Matthew Gardner of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy explains why the tax reforms in Build Back Better are more necessary than ever to level the playing field: 

The tax law enacted under former President Donald Trump, which lowered the statutory tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, has been in effect for four years, and Netflix has reported current federal corporate income tax rates of either 1 percent or nothing in each of those years. (…) Anyone astonished by the company’s tax avoidance this year must not have been paying attention last year.  Or the year before that. Or the year before that. In the four years since the Trump tax cuts took effect, Netflix has enjoyed $10.5 billion of U.S. pretax income and has reported just $81 million of current federal income tax, for a total four-year effective tax rate of 0.8 percent.

Rising inequality in flood zones
Communities of color have long borne the brunt of environmental injustice. And, as climate change brings flood waters and high seas further inland over the next 30 years, Black and Brown communities will face the highest increased flood risk according to new research by Oliver Wing, Carolyn Kousky, Jeremy Porter and Paul Bates as reported in the Louisiana Illuminator. Historic and systemic racism means these communities are least prepared to absorb the blow and government action is needed: 

Historically, poorer communities haven’t seen as much investment in flood adaptation or infrastructure, leaving them more exposed. The new data, reflecting the cost of damage, contradicts a common misconception that flood risk exacerbated by sea level rise is concentrated in whiter, wealthier areas. Our findings raise policy questions about disaster recovery. Prior research has found that these groups recover less quickly than more privileged residents and that disasters can further exacerbate existing inequities. Current federal disaster aid disproportionately helps wealthier residents. Without financial safety nets, disasters can be tipping points into financial stress or deeper poverty.

Number of the Day
$1,370,392,519 –
The additional amount of state financial support that Southern University would have received had it been funded at the same per-pupil rate as predominantly white land-grant schools since 1987, adjusted for inflation.(Source: Forbes)