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Sen. Van Hollen visits Morgan, discusses federal funding potential

Lillian Stephens
Van Hollen visited Morgan to hold the press conference as well as meet with school leadership to discuss the importance of the HBCU Rise Act and how it impacts the university’s funding potential from federal investors.

Lillian Stephens, Staff Writer with The MSU Spokesman

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen discussed opportunities the HBCU RISE Act opens for HBCUs around the country Monday morning at Morgan State University.

The HBCU RISE Act, which stands for Research, Innovation, Security, and Excellence, enables HBCUs to pursue a “very high research activity status,” known as “R1” – the highest level of classification for a research institution from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

A university with R1 status is able to receive more monetary investment from federal organizations over a university like Morgan with R2 status, or “high research activity” status.

“If you think of the other R1 research institutions, universities, and colleges around the country – they are, as Dr. Wilson said, the beneficiaries of lots of federal research dollars,” said Van Hollen. “Both for four-year students [and] obviously graduate students, that is a very big deal – to have the opportunity to work on the most cutting-edge research, technology, and innovation in the country. That is one of the big benefits that would flow to the students here.”

University President David Wilson explained the classification system, which judges the more than 4,000 four-year institutions and puts them in certain categories.

“There are baccalaureate institutions, masters-level comprehensive institutions, and doctoral research universities professional,” said Wilson.

Doctoral research universities professional are institutions that go beyond the master’s level and offer professional doctoral degrees. There is also a category of institution which differentiates between moderate, high, and very high research in the Carnegie classification system.

Wilson said Morgan achieved its R3 status in 2006, and later reached R2 status in 2018. He also said the level of Carnegie status is determined by the university’s research expenditures, research doctorates awarded, and the number of research staff among other things.

“We have been working nationally to get the Department of Defense, in particular, to look at investing more in HBCUs that are R2s, high research institutions,” said Wilson. “[It was] a result of the efforts of Senator Van Hollen that there was language inserted in the last bill that directed the Department of Defense to [make] more federal grants available to Morgan State University as an HBCU R2, and to other HBCU R2s across the nation.”

According to Wilson, federal grants include indirect costs – money provided directly to the institution to continue building infrastructure, which supports research and produces its results.

“When you look at the collective amount of research dollars coming out of Washington, those 150 [R1] institutions are basically receiving the lion’s share of those research dollars,” said Wilson. “We are the only public comprehensive research university in Baltimore City. It’s very important for Morgan to have a very high research mission because that’s intertwined with all of the opportunities that we must have in the city of Baltimore for our city to continue to elevate itself.”

While Morgan received more than $75 million in federal grants and contracts in 2022, Wilson said an R1 classification has the potential to double or triple federal investment funds made available to the university.

(Lillian Stephens)
U.S. Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen speaks alongside Morgan State University President David WIlson and several student council presidents during a press conference at the Earl S. Richardson Library at Morgan in Baltimore, Jan. 23. Van Hollen visited Morgan to hold the press conference as well as met with school leadership to discuss the importance of the HBCU Rise Act and how it impacts the university’s funding potential from federal investors.

“Morgan would not only be the first HBCU in Maryland, it would be the first HBCU in the country to receive the R1 designation” said Van Hollen. “With that, it’ll bring great additional resources to their students and to the city. That is where a lot of the research dollars go.”

Van Hollen said the specific wording of the HBCU RISE Act will aid HBCUs in securing more government funding to conduct research and elevate their status as research facilities in the years to come.

“The reason it was so important to get this into the national defense authorization bill … is because the Defense Department does invest hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in research every year,” said Van Hollen. “When you say to the secretary of defense, “You shall create a program to help elevate our two HBCUs to R1,” the resources will be there.”