BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona meet with 10 leaders at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to discuss any needs and concerns the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Alabama have.

In 2022, the Biden administration gave $2.7 billion dollars to HBCUs through the American Rescue Plan, but Cardona said much more needs to be done.

“Whether it’s increasing Pell Grants, infrastructure dollars, making sure HBCUs have flexibility we want them to have the same access to some of the grants that are available, some of the contracts available. That’s what I needed to hear from them directly,” Cardona said.

Cardona also heard HBCU leaders express how Alabama schools are preparing students for the workforce.

“We heard about dual enrollment programs and how they’re bringing (together) students from different areas, providing counseling and opportunities for success,” Cardona said.

Cardona said he believes this is why more investments need to be made into HBCUs; He said they provide hope for many students across the country.

“I told them in that meeting, Yes there are needs, but you’re a sign of hope in our country and when you look at students and say I see the potential and give you an opportunity to grow and be your authentic self,” Cardona said.

Alabama’s HBCUs received over $334 million through the American Rescue Plan last year.