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Third Democratic debate puts spotlight on Texas Southern University

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HOUSTON -- The third Democratic debate is a historic moment for students and staff at Texas Southern University. Administrators at the historically black college are taking advantage of their moment in the spotlight.

With more than 9,000 students, the university is the largest historically black college in Texas and second largest in the nation.

Famous alumni include former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Good Morning America's Michael Strahan.

Former Texas Senator and presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke campaigned at the university in March and several other candidates have visited since.

“The state of Texas is in play it’s a competitive state," said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Houston came close to hosting the upcoming Democratic National Convention which would've put a spotlight on the city but he says Thursday's debate will do a lot more.

"It speaks to every other HBCU as well," Mayor Turner said.

The university is one of more than 100 historically black colleges and universities created during the segregation era to provide black students the opportunity to get a higher education.

University president Dr. Austin Lane says they still have struggles.

 “Really for me I get a little irritated when we have to explain all the things that we have done and what we continue to do in terms of our graduates - the number of doctors, lawyers, the number of engineers," Dr. Lane said.

With 6,000 people expected on campus for the debate, millions more are expected to watch on television.

Dr. Lane says American voters will see how just how important historically black colleges and universities are.

“Our students have the ability to succeed and they’re doing all over the country and all over the world and we’re going to have an opportunity to show them how well we do it," Dr. Lane said.

On Wednesday President Donald Trump spoke at the 2019 National HBCU Week Conference. He told the crowd his administration is determined to fight for HBCUs.

The president signed an executive order at the beginning of his presidency to ensure HBCUs have access to federal dollars including $100 million in scholarships, research and other areas.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has promised millions for HBCUs if elected as part of his Douglass plan.

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