This post was originally published on Defender Network

By ReShonda Tate

State lawmakers have formed the Texas Historically Black Colleges and Universities Legislative Caucus to help provide the state’s HBCUs with the “necessary resources and support to thrive.”

HBCU students, including students from Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M University – helped organize the caucus, which hopes to assemble state lawmakers from both the Senate and House who represent, attended or support HBCUs and obtain funding for them “commensurate with the role they have played in developing the prosperity” of Texas.

The caucus also plans to raise awareness of the issues HBCUs face, work to improve those schools and “build a network of supporters.” It is expected to formally launch during this legislative session with executive officers, staff and a budget.

Rep. Ron Reynolds, chairman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, said the state is going in the wrong direction when it comes to proposals targeting diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education, and he stressed the importance of investing in HBCUs to help educate Black, Hispanic and first-generation students.

Gov. Greg Abbott is “trying to turn back the clock from some of the progress that has been made in this state to make sure that many other institutions of higher learning had diverse faculty and staff and student populations,” said Reynolds, D-Missouri City. “We understand that (anti-DEI legislation) likely will (pass), so it’s going to be even more important to have strong HBCUs.”

If we make the necessary investments, then trust me, there is a way to do it.

Rep. Ron Reynolds, chairman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus

There are nine public and private HBCUs in Texas. Reynolds said the caucus would need to “be creative” on finding ways to get more money to HBCUs in Texas to help more students graduate and provide the schools with more support.

Reynolds said Texas Southern University is one of 11 HBCUs that the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education has given R2 status, indicating “high research activity.” The school could achieve the prestigious R1 status if state lawmakers gave it more money, said Reynolds, a Texas Southern alumnus.

“As the ninth largest economy in the world, we have a $33 billion surplus and over $15 billion in our state’s rainy day fund. We find ways to support whatever priorities we choose to,” Reynolds said. “If we make the necessary investments, then trust me, there is a way to do it.”