HBCU Historic Restoration Bill Moves Closer to Reality
Devarics, Charles, Black Issues in Higher Education
The House of Representatives has approved a bill to promote the restoration of buildings on historically Black college campuses, boosting prospects for legislation that has languished in Congress since last year.
Members by voice vote approved a plan by Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., that would set goals for restoration of historic buildings and reduce by 30 percent the matching funds HBCUs would have to provide for such efforts. A previous law to encourage historic restoration at HBCUs required a 50 percent match, but that statute expired in 2001.
"This is a day that has been several years in the making," Clyburn said of House action on the bill, H.R. 1606.
Despite difficulties with the old matching requirement, the previous law set the groundwork for future gains in several states, including Clyburn's. In South Carolina, he said, federal funds helped rescue Arnett Hall at Allen University "from the brink of destruction." Boarded up for 40 years, the building topped the state's list of endangered historic sites.
Buildings on other HBCU campuses have similar needs, he said. "The history contained within the hallowed halls of these institutions is as rich and diverse as the students who passed through them."
Lawmakers of both parties acknowledged that a change in the federal approach is justified. "The matching requirement has proved to be a difficult barrier to meet," said Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah, chairman of the House Resources Committee. "The historic quality of these buildings makes it important that we aid in their preservation. …