Ossoff presses Biden’s budget nominee on HBCU funding

Greg Nash

Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) pressed Neera Tanden, President Biden’s pick to lead his budget office, during her confirmation hearing in the Senate on Tuesday about funding for historically Black universities and colleges (HBCUs).

During the hearing, the Democratic senator discussed the importance HBCUs hold in “not just serving the Black community” but also as “gems in our nation’s higher education system.” 

He then asked Tanden whether she would, if confirmed, commit to working with his office to ensure that the needs of the institutions are “proportionally represented and well represented” in future budget requests from the Biden administration in the coming years.

“Senator, as a candidate, President Biden did discuss the vital role HBCUs play, in amongst higher education institutions, from an equity perspective and higher education and essentially wealth building over the long term,” Tanden replied. 

“And so, it is a priority for the president and the vice president, and I would welcome the opportunity to work with you on those issues in support of HBCUs and the vital role that they play,” she added.

In the months leading up to his special Senate election in Georgia last year, Ossoff campaigned on working to strengthen the institutions and help make graduating from public and private HBCUs, as well other public colleges, debt-free. 

He also vowed in a plan aimed at strengthening Georgia’s HBCUs to work to strengthen the Pell Grant system, if elected, which he noted a vast majority of students attending the institutions were eligible to receive. 

Among other proposals outlined in the plan, Ossoff also vowed to work to increase the public funding available to “grow HBCU endowments and ensure the Department of Education provides adequate information and outreach to HBCUs about how to access those resources.”

After he advanced to a runoff election against then-Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), Ossoff doubled down on his pledge to help increase funding for the institutions.

In remarks he made in December at Morris Brown College, a private Methodist historically Black college in Atlanta, Ossoff promised to work “tirelessly to deliver the resources that this institution needs, not just to get back to where it has been, but to achieve higher and higher heights,” according to WABE

He also pledged to the new president of the college, Kevin James, that he would be at his “fingertips” as Georgia’s U.S. senator, if elected, as the school works to get back its accreditation, the outlet reported.

Morris Brown is one of at least nine HBCUs in Georgia, including Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, Savannah State University and Paine College.

Ossoff narrowly defeated Perdue in the Georgia Senate runoff elections last month. His victory in the race helped Democrats gain control of the upper chamber after Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) also managed to unseat then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler (D-Ga.) in a Senate runoff race.

The races saw record turnout among voters from both parties last month, but a strong showing from Black voters and young voters at the ballot box proved key to helping tip the scales to Democrats in the traditionally red state.

Tags David Perdue Joe Biden Jon Ossoff Kelly Loeffler Neera Tanden Raphael Warnock
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