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Florida Congressional Reps Join New HBCU Caucus

April 28, 2015 - 6:00pm

Four representatives from Florida -- Democrats Corrine Brown, Gwen Graham, Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson -- joined more than 30 other members of Congress to start the Bipartisan Congressional Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Caucus on Tuesday.

Florida has four HBCUs: Florida A&M University (FAMU) and private schools Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial University. Across the nation, there are more than 100 HBCUs with more than 300,000 students.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., and U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., will co-chair the new caucus which defines it mission as to highlight and address unique challenges that HBCUs face; and to make sure their needs are heard and recognized on Capitol Hill. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., are the vice chairs.Members of the group range from liberals like U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., to conservatives like U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C.

The leaders of the new caucus explained why they launched on it on Tuesday.

HBCUs have long been an important part of our nations higher education system, Byrne said. As such, I am proud to join with my colleague, Representative Alma Adams, to launch the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus. HBCUs deal with many of the same challenges as other higher education institutions, but they also face unique obstacles that demand special attention. Our nations HBCUs are evolving as they adapt to a changing workforce, and through this caucus, I look forward to helping guide the conversation about how we can best support our nations HBCUs.

Having been a professor for 40 years and an administrator at an HBCU; and as an alumnus of an HBCU, I know the impact that these schools have on students, particularly students from the most underserved communities, Adams said. This bipartisan HBCU Caucus is bringing together champions for HBCUs, so that we can make an even bigger impact to ensure their needs are heard in every aspect of policymaking and across party lines. I look forward to learning more from our students and faculty at HBCUs and will keep their insight with me as we work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act and fight for much needed Pell grant funding.

The new caucus won the applause of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the United Negro College fund as well as leaders of HBCUs.

FAMU honors Rep. Graham and her colleagues who have exhibited great courage and support for our mission by forming this caucus, said Elmira Mangum, the president of FAMU, on Tueday. For more than a hundred years, HBCUs like FAMU have served as a gateway of opportunity for underserved communities and diverse populations. I look forward to working with the caucus to advance and sustain our institution and the HBCU community.

Im proud to represent Florida A&M University, one of our states most historic and important universities, Graham said. Forming the Bipartisan Congressional Historical Black College and Universities Caucus will help Democrats and Republicans work together to represent these vital institutions across our country.

Reach Kevin Derby at or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN. During his time in higher education, Kevin worked as the registrar for Edward Waters College in his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla.

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