They came to Washington, DC from 35 historically Black colleges and universities across the nation, to demand of their congress people to provide more funding to their schools for campus improvements, more Pell Grants for students, and more federal research funding.

Tuesday, the HBCU Collective - students, alumni, and supporters - came back to the nation’s capital for their Second Annual “Day of Action,” to make their case that lawmakers need to treat Black institutions of higher learning the same as they treat their predominately-white counterparts – fairly.

“We produce the most science, technology, engineering and math scholars; most Black doctors, Black lawyers, most Black engineers,” HBCU Collective founder Robert Stephens said recently. “We’re saying that HBCU’s make a huge contribution to society, and we just want to make sure that our schools are sustainable.”

Among those speaking at Tuesday’s noon press conference on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, Dr. Paulette Dillard, interim President of Shaw University in Raleigh.

Shaw, the oldest HBCU in the country, sent thirty students to the “Day of Action.” Students from St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, and North Carolina Central University in Durham also attended.

“When Shaw University was founded in 1865, it was the first institution of higher learning for newly freed slaves in the South,” Pres. Dillard said. “ As the South’s first HBCU, Shaw University has a proud tradition and a rich history. For 152 years, Shaw has educated Black lawyers, teachers, doctors, scientists, academics, pastors, business leaders, activists, and citizens who have made countless contributions to our state, nation, and our world.”

“Shaw, and all of the HBCUs represented here today, provided a pathway to prosperity for countless young men and women and helped create a vibrant Black middle class despite the incredible odds that society imposed on people of color,” Dr. Dillard continued. “Many our nation’s first HBCUs, including Shaw, survived the bloody days of Reconstruction and white supremacy of the 19th century, and were catalysts for change during the Civil Rights Movement in the 20th century.”

“All institutions of higher learning must train students to be effective advocates for change. These students here today are proof that in the 21st century, HBCUs will continue to play a vital role in educating the leaders of tomorrow,” Dr. Dillard concluded.

Though she was unable to attend the press conference Tuesday, Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC-12), in a statement for the occasion, lauded the HBCU Collective, noting that in the recent 2018 Omnibus budget passed by Congress, HBCUs received significant support, thanks to their lobbying.

“The voices of our HBCUs have helped us in the Congress change the conversation from “why do we need HBCUs” to “what would we ever do without them?” Rep. Adams stated.