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From The Grio:

Today President Barack Obama signs the Health care and Education Reconciliation Act on 2010 into law. No one has missed the health care reform mission of the bill but few are discussing the educational element of the bill, particularly its increased support for HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and PBIs (Predominantly Black Institutions) or simply MSIs (Minority Serving Institutions). “This package has been a long standing priority of our Administration’s providing the financial assistance that students need to attend college. It was necessary to pass this bill as soon as possible to get middle class families the assistance they need to make their children’s college dreams come true,” reads the official statement from the White House in response to why education was included with health care reform.

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Some of the provisions include: a proposed commitment of $1 billion over a ten-year period to HBCUs and PBIs, specifically $850 million to HBCUs and $150 million to PBIs, an increase in Pell Grant awards that is estimated to benefit 200, 000 African American students and an income-based student loan repayment program which would draw ten percent of a graduate’s income as well as potentially dissolve that debt for those choosing public service careers or if the debt remains unretired after 20 years.

TheGrio caught up with Dr. John S. Wilson, a Morehouse and Harvard alum who was appointed Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in July 2009, to discuss this landmark legislation. Wilson spent 16 years at MIT, where he served as director of foundation relations and assistant provost, and most recently taught at George Washington University

theGrio: Please explain some of the major provisions of this initiative.

Dr. John S. Wilson: The president of the United States and the Secretary of Education together established a 2020 plan. That means by the year of 2020, we intend to have a greater percentage of college graduates and we all realize that we can’t reach that goal without HBCUs. The legislation that President Obama will sign for HBCUs and predominantly black institutions — that money will be used to renew and reform and expand programming in these institutions and to strengthen them.

Talk about the Pell grant, (especially the) student loan repayment aspect.

The course for direct institutional support is what I was referring to first, the billion dollars over 10 years. There will also be a major boost in Pell grants. That might be between two and $3,000 (per student). A large percentage of HBCU students come from low-income families; you’re talking about more than 50 percent, so this will be very helpful.

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