NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Gov. Ralph Northam is looking to allocate more than $164 million in state funding for capital improvements and other needs at Norfolk State University in his last state budget proposal.
Northam, who has just over a month left in his governorship, made the announcement on Thursday as part of his “Thank You, Virginia” tour.
The proposed budget would have $297 million in total for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
“It was not that long ago in our history that people of color were not allowed to go to the schools other folks went to. So schools were desegregated. That happened back in the early ’70s. Despite that, the colleges that African Americans continued to attend were underfunded, ” Northam said. “They have been, historically. So, we’ve looked at the priorities and our economy is doing well.”
While most of the proposed budget would go to capital improvement projects, with Virginia State University also getting $113 million, some of the money would also go toward student retention and helping them graduate.
“This is a day where we’re putting millions of dollars into investments so we can make sure we continue to train the most talented workforce and these individuals graduate from here and be members of our society to do great things not only for Virginia, but the country,” Northam said.
Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston, who is president of Norfolk State, says their graduates are all throughout the community making a difference and she believes the funding will help them to continue to do that.
“It is exhilarating to have the opportunity to do the things we’re setting out to do to educate our students and right some of the wrongs of our past. That is meaningful and changes lives,” she said.
NSU student government president Jaylin Drewry believes the projects that come from the funding will help attract more to NSU and VSU.
“I am super excited,” he said. “It is so important for the government to continue to fund HBCUs specifically our state government. This amount of money, not only being given to NSU but also Virginia State, is going to change lives.”
Officials with Norfolk State say the proposed funds would go toward a new fine arts building, a student wellness complex, and a new science building.
Plans for the buildings would start in the spring if the General Assembly passes the budget.
Although Northam is on his way out of office, he hopes that Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin will support the proposed budget funding for HBCUs.
“All of these things we’ve been working on are important. I think the governor-elect has an opportunity to continue the progress we’ve made and the progress we’ve made is by listening to Virginians. We’ve listened and we’ve learned and then we delivered in Richmond,” he said. “He has a tremendous opportunity. No governor-elect has been turned over an economy as good of a shape as it is right now and he has a responsibility to continue the priorities we’ve set. One of those is education and one of those is funding our HBCUs.”
Northam’s proposed two-year state budget also raises the Tuition Assistance Grant to $5,000 from $4,000. TAG helps Virginia students attend private colleges, including HBCUs. The budget will fund an additional $20 million in 2023 and $20 million in 2024 to make Norfolk State and Virginia State University more affordable for students.
Northam also visited Fort Monroe on Thursday to sign the deed for the fort’s Chamberlin property, and wrap up his schedule Thursday with a trip to Virginia Union University in Richmond.