Political News

Kamala Harris proposes $74.5 billion for black higher education and businesses

Posted July 26, 2019 6:02 a.m. EDT

— Sen. Kamala Harris rolled out two new policy proposals Friday aimed at closing the wealth gap among black Americans, focused on investing in higher education and entrepreneurship.

As the only graduate of a historically black college and university running in the 2020 presidential race, the Howard University alum proposed what her campaign calls "the next major planks in her Black agenda."

The California Democrat wants to invest $60 billion in science, technology, engineering and math education at HBCUs. Harris, who graduated in 1986, references her formative college years on the campaign trail, frequently initiating the "H-U... You know!" chant across the campaign trail.

In 2016, the US Department of Education found African American students received about 8% of all STEM bachelor's degrees and only 4.5% of STEM doctorates. In 2011, the department found that just 6% of the STEM workforce was black.

"We have to reverse this trend," said a Harris campaign fact sheet released to reporters.

"With access to proper resources, HBCUs and other MSIs (minority serving institutions) can be hubs of activity for STEM research and learning." The fact sheet added that "we can create a pipeline for ensuring that Black Americans are leading the research and entrepreneurship to grow our innovation economy and participate in the wealth that it generates."

The $60 billion higher education proposal would be divided into $10 billion for an infrastructure grant program to help build classrooms, labs and other facilities and $50 billion to fund scholarships, fellowships and research.

Harris also pledged to work with Congress to create a $12 billion capital grant and technical support program, to facilitate startup minority small businesses. Part of her entrepreneurial plan involves student loan debt forgiveness for Pell grant recipients who start businesses that operate for three years in disadvantaged communities.

On the campaign trail, Harris has spoken to African American girls about the importance of a STEM education in the 21st century. "It's like learning how to drive: You got to learn how to code," Harris told a group of black girls in North Charleston, SC. "OK, will you take some coding classes? Even one. OK? You're on the same page with me?"

In her policy rollout, Harris also expanded on a teacher pay plan she unveiled in March, proposing an additional $2.5 billion to support HBCU programs that train black teachers.

The Harris campaign would not signal to CNN how these proposals would be funded.