Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Representing the 7th District of Alabama

Reps. Sewell and Moore lead letter urging support for HBCU grants

Jun 30, 2017
Press Release
Letter to Secretary of Education Devos urges support for HBCUs, clarity regarding denied Upward Bound applications

Washington, D.C. – On Friday, Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) and Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) led a letter with 41 Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, urging Secretary of Education Betsy Devos to provide clarity in denied Upward Bound grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as well as targeted assistance to HBCUs. During the FY17 grant period, a concerning number of HBCUs lost funding for their Upward Bound programs, many for non-substantive errors such as font or file format.

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities are an integral part of our nation’s education system and our history,” said Rep. Terri Sewell. “For many of my constituents, these schools are where the first member of their family went to college and where the next generation is getting their degree. The Upward Bound program has been a critical asset to these HBCUs by providing millions of students with the security of an academic support system that can eliminate achievement gaps existing between the rich and the poor and between HBCU students and those who attend other institutions. Denying HBCUs this lifeline of support puts students at risk and our history at risk. We’re calling on Secretary Devos to work with Members of Congress to identify and address the issues that have led to such a devastating loss on our HBCU campuses.”                    

“As the TRIO Caucus co-chair and an Upward Bound graduate, I am deeply concerned about the denial of grant funding to HBCUs. Upward Bound played an essential role in shaping my academic and professional success,” said Rep. Gwen Moore. “Funding must continue in order to ensure that future generations have access to these resources.  We hope that Secretary DeVos will respond to this letter affirming her commitment to Upward Bound students at our historically Black colleges. This administration should work to mitigate disparities not aggravate them.”

Included among HBCUs which lost Upward Bound grants is Miles College, which has had an active Upward Bound program on its campus since the mid-1960s. Tuskegee University, Clark Atlanta University, West Virginia State University, Savannah State University are just some of the HBCUs where Upward Bound programs were founded during the pivotal years of the Civil Rights Movement and which have lost their programs during this year’s competition.

On May 2nd, 32 Members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter led by Reps. Warren Davidson and Danny Davis requesting Secretary Devos’ reconsideration of Upward Bound applications denied on the basis of technical issues. The Department of Education announced later that month that it would use funding and flexibility provided by Congress in the FY2017 Omnibus to reconsider Upward Bound applications for institutions denied a grant due to non-substantive errors.

Every federal program that infuses resources and creates enrollment pipelines is integral to the overall vitality of HBCUs, making it particularly problematic that a large number of our HBCUs lost their funding. Rep. Sewell’s June 30 letter to Secretary Devos urges targeted support for HBCUs as the Department of Education reconsiders current and future Upward Bound applications.


Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) is serving her fourth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional district. She sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was recently appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Sewell is a Chief Deputy Whip and serves on the prestigious Steering and Policy Committee of the Democratic Caucus. She is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and serves as Vice Chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus, and Vice Chair of Outreach for the New Democrat Coalition.