Virginia’s new two-year budget is being criticized for redirecting funding for undocumented students to the state’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). 10 million over two years had originally been earmarked for financial aid to undocumented immigrants who cannot receive federal student loans and grants.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin asked the General Assembly to use the money instead for students at Virginia’s five private and public HBCUs. Critics have accused the governor of “pitting” groups against each other, and some say it perpetuates a false shortage problem at a time when Virginia has a budget surplus.

The content of the Virginia governor’s action

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, who signed the budget Tuesday, proposed that half of the allocation be used for state financial aid to Norfolk State University and Virginia State University, both public HBCUs.

The other half will be used to increase the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant or Scholarship, a state aid for students attending private colleges and universities to support students attending private HBCUs. The amount provided to students at these institutions will increase from $5,000 to $7,500 per year. There are mixed reviews of the Virginia governor’s measure.

Shifting Daca funding to HBCUs: A controversial move

Critics of the measure say it unnecessarily pits groups of students with high financial need against each other at a time when the Commonwealth’s budget is in surplus. Supporters of the measure say the idea of funding underfunded HBCU students should be applauded.

Critics of the governor’s measure        

“It’s a shame on the governor to mobilize state financial aid as a cheap political tactic to divide communities of color,” said Sookyung Oh, director of the Hamkae Center, a Virginia-based civil rights organization. As he argued throughout the campaign, he could have easily allocated funds to ensure that every young Virginian who wants to pursue higher education in the Commonwealth has the resources to do so.”

For others, critics of the measure say it perpetuates false shortages in the midst of Virginia’s budget surplus and forces lawmakers to sacrifice one group of needy students for another.

Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), stated the following: Quote “I understand and agree that we need to do something about HBCUs. This is not the right way to do it. It’s messy,” he suggested Friday before the House election on the amendment vote. “We have enough resources to help.”

Some critics have also accused the governor of pitting groups “against each other,” a charge Youngkin spokesman Macaulay Porter disputed Tuesday.

Porter stated that, quote, “It’s a typical Democrat argument to say that one group is” versus “another.” He believes that Governor Youngkin has actually committed to providing the funding for HBCU. And, he is keeping that commitment with this budget.

Defenders of the Virginia governor’s measure

DeL. AC Cordoza (R-Hampton) defend Youngkin’s claims.  He says HBCUs have always been underfunded – we’ve heard both sides – the governor is trying to do something about it, and all we’ve heard are complaints,” Cordosa told the House on Friday.

HBCU funding: a measure finally passed in Congress

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the budget amendment on a partisan vote. The measure narrowly passed the Senate with the support of two Democrats, Sens. Joseph D. Morrissey (Richmond) and Lionell Spruill Sr. (Chesapeake). Spruill did not respond to a request for comment, but Morrissey’s office referenced his remarks on the amendment.

Morrissey told lawmakers he wanted to support HBCU students by voting for the bill. He said this: This is critical, that’s why I support it.  He goes on to say: Quote, “I’ve been to Virginia … and I’ve talked to students in person who wouldn’t be here without their scholarship.”

The measure is one of three dozen amendments Youngkin proposed after House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement this month on a two-year, $165 billion budget plan.

Which universities will benefit from the funds allocated to DACA?

The universities that will benefit from DACA funds are:

  • The University of Virginia,
  • Lynchburg, and Hampton University,
  • Virginia Union,
  • Norfolk State, and Virginia State.

Are undocumented RACA students left to fend for themselves?

Ralph Northam (D) signed legislation before leaving the governor’s office in 2021. This legislation allows undocumented and DACA students to receive in-state tuition and apply for financial aid.

Lopez, however, is concerned that Youngkin has not given clear assurances that his administration will follow the written law and ensure equal access to in-state financial aid for undocumented students.

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