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Strickland supports funding for HBCUs, despite none in Northwest

U.S. Rep. Marilyn Strickland, seen smiling at the camera in a photo from the Associated Press.
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press (file)
U.S. Rep. Marilyn Strickland

Historically Black colleges and universities will receive a boost in federal funding, under a measure supported in part by U.S. Rep. Marilyn Strickland, D-Tacoma.

The Democratic member of Congress, and HBCU alumna, says it's about giving a boost to institutions that benefit the whole country, including Washington's 10th Congressional District.

Strickland graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in sociology, but then went to graduate school at Clark Atlanta University – an HBCU in Georgia.

“I didn’t move to Atlanta to go to graduate school,” she said. “It was something that just came into my sight.”

U.S. Rep. Marilyn Strickland, seen photographed during her time as a student at Clark Atlanta University, wearing a floral-print dress and smiling at the camera.
Provided by the office of Rep. Marilyn Strickland
U.S. Rep. Marilyn Strickland, seen here during her time attending graduate school at Clark Atlanta University, in Georgia.

Strickland moved to Georgia to be nearer to relatives who lived in Atlanta. But what she found at Clark Atlanta, among a majority African American student body, shaped her.

“Sometimes when people talk about the African American community, they assume we are a monolith with only one life experience,” Strickland said.

“But I met people from different parts of the country. I met folks who had struggles growing up, who had to fight and scrap for everything they had. I met children of people who were multigenerational well-to-do, who had buildings on the Atlanta University campus who were named after their grandparents.”

Congress designated $363 million for HBCUs, a $25 million increase from last year.

Listen to Strickland’s full conversation with KNKX above, or see highlights below.

On increasing the federal funding:

“As an alum of a historically Black college or university, they’ve just been chronically underfunded. A lot of them are private institutions that rely a lot on philanthropy, and they don’t necessarily get the government and public support that they need. [The funding] will do everything from capital upgrades to scholarships. And remember, during the pandemic, a lot of institutions suffered because funding wasn’t coming in, student enrollment went down. The conversation is about access to education and supporting these historic institutions that have done so much to advance the cause of African Americans.”

On the profile of HBCUs:

“I remember when Vice President Harris was selected [as the Democratic running mate] and she and President Biden won the election, I remember telling my husband, ‘HBCUs are going to have their profile raised in a very dramatic way now.’ Because we now have someone in the White House who is an alum. And sure enough, enrollment in HBCUs now is off the chart. Clark Atlanta University, my alma mater, is now getting a huge slug of support both from philanthropic and public sector [sources]. The funding is important, but just raising the profile and telling the story of why these institutions are important [is valuable] and I’m sitting here with you today.”

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.