Groups Mobilize To Stop Cuts for Minority-Serving Schools

Many of the nation’s leading higher education groups — from community colleges to the National Collegiate Athletic Association — are urging Congress to reject a House of Representatives plan that would cut spending for Black, Hispanic-serving, tribal and other minority-serving colleges by more than 40 percent next year.

A coalition of 37 organizations says the 2012 plan from a House spending panel would make “drastic cuts” that will have “a disastrous effect on minority students’ college participation and completion” at a time when the federal government wants to raise college success rates.

“Cuts of this magnitude would devastate the campuses that receive this funding and the students who depend on it,” the group said in letters to all House and Senate members.

The groups are taking aim at the 2012 education spending bill unveiled by a Republican-controlled House subcommittee late last month. Among other provisions, it would cut spending on Title V Hispanic-serving institutions by 83 percent, from $104 million to $17 million next year.

Funding for HBCUs would decline by 36 percent, from $236 million to $152 million for the 2012 fiscal year.

The bill would terminate all funding for the $26 million tribal college program as well as smaller initiatives for predominantly Black colleges and universities and colleges serving large numbers of Native Hawaiians, Alaskans and Pacific Islanders.

In proposing the cuts, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., House Appropriations Committee chairman, said the bill “takes decisive action to cut duplicative, inefficient and wasteful spending to help get these agency budgets onto sustainable financial footing.”

But the education groups say MSIs play a unique role in contributing to the educational pipeline. While they represent less than 20 percent of all postsecondary schools, MSIs enroll 35 percent of African-Americans, Hispanic and American Indians in higher education.

“They are cost-effective and efficient pathways that enable students from all walks of life — especially low-income, first-generation students from chronically underserved communities — to enroll in higher education and to graduate with benefits to themselves, their communities and the nation,” the coalition said. These schools also produce large numbers of traditionally underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM fields, it said.

The American Council on Education, or ACE, signed the letters on behalf of the other groups, which in addition to the NCAA include the American Association of Community Colleges, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and Educational Testing Service.

Organizations representing MSIs such as UNCF, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education and American Indian Higher Education Consortium also signed the letters, which urge Congress to retain funding at current levels next year.

ACE officials noted that the House plan is unlikely to pass in its current form. The Senate already is on record against the plan, as a draft spending bill in that chamber would maintain funding at current levels. Nonetheless, ACE said it is important “to protest this particular cut” so Congress gains a better understanding of MSIs role.

ACE also said the House and Senate plans are likely “starting points for eventual negotiations” later this year.

Congress already is behind in the appropriations process, as the 2012 fiscal year began Oct. 1. Lawmakers have approved short-term spending that will keep federal programs in operation only through Nov. 18.