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Chester County Press

Gov. Shapiro signs important funding bill at Lincoln University

12/06/2023 12:34PM ● By Chris Barber
Gov. Shapiro signs important funding bill at Lincoln University [3 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

The Lincoln University community reacted with jubilation on Friday as Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro put his pen to a bill that gives the school a 21-percent financial allocation increase.

Shapiro paid a visit to the university for a ceremonial signing of House Bill 1461, which raises the 2023-24 allocations to the four state-related universities: Penn State, Temple, Pitt and Lincoln. He was joined by several state legislators who spoke, Lincoln President Brenda Allen, the Lincoln University Orange Crush Band and 13 Lincoln students, plus one graduate assistant who in November marched 66 miles to Harrisburg to advocate for and expedite the passage.

When Shapiro took to the dais, he praised the “Freedom 14” Lincoln marchers. Identifying himself as an advocate for widening accessibility to education, he told them, “Your motto [learn, liberate, lead] is a call to action.”

He added that greater accessibility engendered by more funds for students, programs and faculty “(E)nsures the legacy here as we send out graduates who are ready to liberate and lead. We have to provide that pathway for all who wish to pursue it.

“In this period of diversity, it is important that we have people from all walks of life in positions of leadership – like the leadership all of you have shown,” Shapiro said.

Frustrated by the state Senate’s delay in approving the bill, student organizers Drake Smith and MaKenzie Hanks got together and organized the 66-mile march from Lincoln to Harrisburg on Nov. 10 through 13.

Smith said he had been haunted by the announced closure of other historically Black colleges and universities and did not want Lincoln to face that danger.

“We need to stave off that fate. …Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave,” he said.

He said as he stepped onto Baltimore Pike for the beginning of the march, he thought about Lincoln University Founder John Miller Dickey, who founded the school in 1854. He said he imagined the greater peril Dickey felt as he merely took walks into Oxford, which is only 10 miles from the Mason-Dixon Line, below which slavery was practiced.

Hanks, a junior and co-organizer of the march, said, “This was not about politics or partisanship. …Education can transform communities, and it supported not just Lincoln, but the other universities.”

At the conclusion of his remarks, Shapiro announced that he has appointed Smith as chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Next Generation Engagement, and Hanks “Will change the world.”

Allen greeted her audience of about 100 that included students, alumni, board members and friends. She told them she was a bit caught off guard when Smith approached her and spoke of the intention to walk the almost 70 miles to Harrisburg. However, she said, in her more than 30 years in higher education she has always believed in the independence of students. She added that she met with them ahead of time to make sure they would be safe and not just “camping out.”

As it turned out, they were indeed safe and had motel stays and food along the way.

In fact, one of the marchers, senior Jayson Davis, said they received a lot of public support along the way. Once, when they happened to be resting in a parking lot in Mt. Joy, the owner came out to ask them what they were doing. Davis said she was so impressed that she made out a check for $500 and gave it to them.

Shapiro and his team were scheduled to arrive at the Lincoln Student Union at 11 a.m., but they were almost an hour late. It was in the 45-minute time gap that State Sen. Carolyn Comitta, D-19 of West Goshen, stepped in along with the Lincoln Orange Crush Band to fill in.

An enthusiastic Lincoln University booster, Comitta told the Freedom 14 marchers, “We stood here in the rain as you left, and we greeted you in Harrisburg when you arrived.”

She further praised them for their successful efforts: “You marched for all – Penn State, Pitt and Temple. You are the students who made it happen, and we are so proud of you.”

Meanwhile, the Lincoln marching band arrived on the scene at the same time and brought their upbeat music—plus-cheerleaders.

When Shapiro arrived, his actual signing of the bill was preceded by words from Smith, Hanks, Allen and several state legislators.

Pennsylvania Sen. Vincent Hughes – D-7 of Philadelphia – was passionate. A graduate of Temple University, he nonetheless donned a Lincoln baseball cap and gave an animated endorsement of the role Lincoln plays in the state and the nation.

“What you did is what Lincoln students have done for 179 years: They lead. It’s what we do!  Penn State has 90,000 kids; Pitt has 20,000; Temple has 25,000; Lincoln has 1,800.  It took the smallest school to have the biggest impact. That’s what we’ve been doing at Lincoln for 170 years,” he said.

State Rep Jordan Harris, D-186 of Philadelphia and Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, was likewise animated. He cited the contributions to society by Lincoln graduates Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Poet Langston Hughes, among others.

“What Lincoln does is magical … You are amazing leaders. Lincoln creates not only leaders here but presidents of foreign countries. …That money is an investment not only in books and classrooms. It is an investment in the future of the commonwealth, the county and everywhere,” he said.

Celebrities also present on stage were State Rep. Greg Scott, D-54 of Norristown, and Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Khalid Mumin.

Although the Commonwealth budget is due for completion and passage at the end of June, parts of it including the education funding were held up because the state Senate had not yet passed it. Bill 1461 concluded that action, giving Lincoln the 21-percent increase of about $3 million, raising the total to almost $19 million for the year. Penn State, Pitt and Temple received 7-percent increases.

In total, the annual allocations for the other three state related universities are Penn State $259 million, Temple $169 million and Pitt $165 million.

When asked about the delays in parts of the budget, Shapiro said they actually only amounted to about 1 percent of the total and he hoped they would be resolved within days.

He also said the schools are responsible for reporting to the state on a regular basis how the money is spent.

Lincoln University is the first degree-awarding HBCU college in the United State, having been founded in 1854. It sits between Jennersville and Oxford along Baltimore Pike in Lower Oxford Township.