Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, reached an agreement with Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Sens. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, Doug Jones, D-Alabama, Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, supported by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, to make permanent $255 million in annual funding for historically black colleges and universities and minority serving institutions like Delaware State University, simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, for 20 million American families and streamline income-driven repayment for nearly 8 million borrowers. Funding for the institutions lapsed Sept. 30.

“HBCUs like Delaware State University have played a critical role in helping to ensure that every Delawarean and every American is able to access higher education,” said Coons. “I’m thrilled that we’ve reached a bipartisan agreement to ensure that Delaware State and HBCUs across the country will be permanently funded and supported.” He continued, “I’m also proud that our agreement provides students a simpler path to accessing federal student aid and streamlines repayment processes for millions of student borrowers.”

“I want to thank my colleagues Sens. Murray and Alexander, as well as Sens. Jones, Coons, Scott and Burr, and members of their staffs, for working in good faith to reach a bipartisan agreement that provides our HBCUs and students with the funding they deserve,” said Carper. “In Delaware, we know that the money provided through the Higher Education Act is a smart investment that will bolster our workforce and our economy. Last month, I visited Delaware State University and heard directly from students and faculty members about how important this federal funding is to the university’s success. I’m pleased that today’s bipartisan agreement will bring permanent federal funding to Delaware State University and other HBCUs across the country and enable these universities to focus on what they do best: educating our students in the classroom and preparing them for lasting careers in today’s workforce.”

Carper and Coons have been outspoken in their support of funding for Delaware State University and HBCUs. In November, Carper and Coons joined 34 of their colleagues in letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, to call for immediate passage of the FUTURE Act reauthorization bill. They each spoke out on the Senate floor late last month urging senators on both sides of the aisle to support this critical, permanent funding extension. In October, Carper hosted a roundtable at DSU to discuss critical funding for HBCUs and urged Congress to immediately extend funding.

The amendment permanently reauthorizes and provides $255 million in annual mandatory funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions.

It is fully paid for by including the FAFSA Act which passed the Senate unanimously last year and which:

— Allows providing tax information only once. Students do not have to give their tax information to the federal government twice

— Eliminates up to 22 questions. Students give permission to the Department of Education to request tax return data already given to the Internal Revenue Service, which reduces the 108 questions on the FAFSA by up to 22 questions

— Eliminates verification “nightmare.” For most students, eliminates so-called “verification” which is a difficult bureaucratic process that 5.5 million students go through annually to make sure the information they gave to the Department of Education is exactly the same as they gave to the IRS.

— Eliminates $6 billion in mistakes. According to the Department of Education, helps taxpayers by eliminating up to $6 billion each year in mistakes, both overpayments and underpayments, in Pell grants and student loans

— Enables 7 million applicants who are currently unable to access their IRS data for their FAFSA to verify that they do not file taxes without requesting separate documentation from the IRS; and

— Streamlines student loan repayment by eliminating burdensome annual paperwork for 7.7 million federal student loan borrowers on income-driven plans.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the FAFSA Act saves taxpayers $2.8 billion over ten years which will be used to pay for the permanent funding for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.