Department of Education Discharges $1.6 Billion in Debt at HBCUs

On April 2, the Department of Education announced the discharge of approximately $1.6 billion of debt at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that participate in the HBCU Capital Financing Program. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, enacted in December 2020, provided authority and funding to discharge the debts under the HBCU Capital Financing Program, which has provided low-cost loans to finance and refinance infrastructure improvements at HBCUs since 1994. The full list of institutions receiving HBCU Capital Finance Debt discharges is available here.

Funding for HBCUs has been a top priority for advocates since the onset of the pandemic. “Our HBCUs have long been on an uneven playing field, financially, as compared to many other postsecondary institutions,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in the Department’s press release. The CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan deliver a combined sum of more than $5 billion reserved for HBCUs through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund program. President Biden’s recent infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Act, also allocates $45 billion in research dollars to HBCUs. CGS continues to advocate for additional relief for institutions, especially funding that addresses the disproportionate effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on minority serving institutions.

DOJ Clarifies Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protected Under Title IX

On March 26, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division determined that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected under Title IX regulations. Detailed in a memorandum directed to all federal agencies, the Civil Rights Division upholds the June 2020 Supreme Court decision in the case Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that workers who are gay or transgender are protected under Title VII, the federal employment discrimination law. Based on sufficient similarities in the language, the memo explains that Title IX’s protections “on the basis of sex” can be interpreted as interchangeable with the Title VII wording, “because of” sex. The document also notes that the Supreme Court and other federal courts consistently look to interpretations of Title VII to inform Title IX. This change negates the Trump administration’s rejection that the Bostock decision applies to students and directs “consistent and robust” enforcement of Title IX.

Department of Education Initiates Title IX Review

On April 6, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) sent a letter to students, educators, and other stakeholders, announcing a comprehensive review of all agency actions related to Title IX. The letter explains that OCR will begin a formal review of existing regulations and other actions related to Title IX , the first step in implementing President Biden’s March 8 Executive Order on Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. The Executive Order requires the Department to review and reconsider all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions, including the 2020 amendments to the Department’s Title IX regulations, which took effect in August 2020.


In the coming weeks, OCR will hold a public hearing to gather input from the public on the issue of sexual harassment in school environments, including sexual violence, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. OCR will use stakeholder insights to determine additional changes to the Title IX regulations, which could lead to revisions through a notice of proposed rulemaking. Individuals wishing to partake in the public hearing are instructed to monitor the Department of Education’s Newsroom webpage for upcoming details. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is also anticipated following the review and public hearing.


Whilst under review, the Department’s current Title IX regulations will remain in effect. In the coming months, OCR will issue a Q&A document that will “provide additional clarity about how OCR interprets schools’ existing obligations under the 2020 amendments,” such as what authority schools and institutions have in implementing their own policies against sexual violence. More information is available through the Department’s press release.

NEH Announces Funding Opportunities for Cultural and Educational Institutions

On April 2, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced two new funding opportunities to support cultural organizations and educational institutions impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. These funding opportunities, available through the American Rescue Plan, will provide direct grants to individual humanities institutions and grant-making organizations to distribute to aversely affected organizations and individuals. The two grant programs, the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Organizations and the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grantmaking, seek to assist the humanities community in recovering from the economic burdens of the pandemic; enable the reopening of humanities institutions and programs; and support the retention of the humanities workforce. Applications from underserved and minority-serving institutions and organizations are highly encouraged. More information is available here.

Democrats Look to Reconciliation to Advance Infrastructure & Immigration Legislation

On April 5, the Senate Parliamentarian signaled that Democrats can leverage a provision in the 1974 Budget Act that would allow for at least one more revised budget resolution in the current fiscal year. By employing the budget process known as reconciliation, Senate Democrats would have a chance at passing two additional major legislative proposals on their agenda that are unlikely to gather the otherwise necessary 60 votes. The proposals include President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, which the administration unveiled on March 31, and a package on education, child care, and health care, which is expected later in April. Bills drafted through the reconciliation process, most recently utilized to pass the American Rescue Plan, are viable to pass in the upper chamber by only a simple majority vote.


House Democrats are expected to include immigration provisions in their draft of the next reconciliation legislation. The provisions are expected to encompass policy included in two pieces of immigration legislation that the House passed in March: the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), which would provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and those protected under Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforcement Departure, and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1603). To secure Parliamentarian approval, the proposed immigration provisions would need to be framed as combatting budgetary impacts. Noting these impacts is necessary to fall in line with the Byrd rule, which obstructs non-budgetary provisions from reconciliation bills. CGS continues to work with lawmakers in a bipartisan fashion while advocating for a legislative solution that enables Dreamers and other non-citizens to overcome barriers preventing them from accessing graduate education in the U.S.