RICHMOND, Va. - Former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder has asked state officials to provide millions more in funding for historically Black colleges and universities.
Hampton University graduate Spencer Battle said that his four years in college changed his life. He said the opportunity to study at a historically Black university opened many doors for him.
Now, he wants other students to benefit from the same opportunities and experiences. However, in order for this to happen, he said that more funding is vital.
"There's so much character at HBCU's, so many people that affect your lives and teach you the culture and teach you how to better yourself, but a lot of people don't get that opportunity because they have to weigh the pros and cons of going to a place that doesn't get funded as much as another school," Battle said.
In a letter addressed to Gov. Ralph Northam, the Lt. Governor and several members of the General Assembly, former Governor Doug Wilder asked state leaders to provide more in funding for historically Black colleges and universities.
His request started with $50 million in federal dollars for each of Virginia's four public and private HBCU's.
"Let me ask you this, how do students benefit from the removal of statues?" Wilder asked.
He shared a recent report by the non-profit organization Education Reform Now that found that while 34% of Virginia's 18-24-year-old students are Black or Hispanic, only three of the state's 15 public four-year institutions meet or exceed that proportion, including two HBCU's.
"We spend more in many instances on athletic programs at some of these schools than they do in allocations they make to ESPU's. So it's not fair, it's not right, it's wrong and we don't address it now, when are we going to do it?" Wilder asked.
On Monday, a spokesperson for Gov. Northam released a statement saying the following:
Governor Northam is an ardent supporter of Virginia's historically Black colleges and universities - that's why his 2020 budget dedicated a record $300 million to Norfolk State University and Virginia State University, two public HBCU's.
The statement went on to say that state leaders are finalizing plans to prioritize spending using funds from the American Rescue Act and that education is a top priority.
"There's so many times I'd tell people I go to Hampton and I'd get the where is that or what is that?" Battle said.
Battle said he hopes funding will open thousands of doors for Virginia's minority and low-income students.
"That's a beautiful concept, you know, When I heard that I was like that's an amazing opportunity," Battle said.