UNCF Urges More Federal Funding For Black Colleges in 2000
The College Fund/UNCF is asking Congress for budget increases that would propel the government’s historically Black college funding program past the $200 million mark next year.
College Fund/UNCF President William Gray, a former member of Congress, personally presented the proposal to the House Appropriations Committee on April 21. The testimony marked Gray’s first address to his former colleagues since he left Congress in 1991, UNCF officials say.
The plan calls for a $40 million, or 25 percent, increase in HBCU funding, for a total appropriation of $205 million in fiscal year 2000. Gray proposed $165 million for the main HBCU program, up from $134.5 million this year, and $40 million for the HBCU graduate program now funded at $30 million.
“HBCUs are a major source of African American college graduates and Black professionals in America,” including more than half of African American teachers, Ph.D.s, and physicians, he says. Yet, “our schools have accomplished all this for a fraction of the cost compared to that of majority institutions.
“I know you have limited resources, and competing interests and priorities. But let me remind you that every dollar invested in education is an investment not only in changing a person’s life, but in America.”
In a show of solidarity with Latino colleagues, Gray and the College Fund/UNCF also endorsed the president’s proposal to expand aid to Hispanic-serving institutions by 50 percent next year — from $28 million to $42.4 million. HSIs receive funding in a separate section of the Higher Education Act.
“The nation’s historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority institutions are best suited to enroll and educate tomorrow’s workforce,” he says.
Gray outlined an ambitious proposal for all of the government’s student financial aid programs, which he called essential to reach students from disadvantaged families. For example, the plan contains a major increase in college work/study funds, from $870 million to $1 billion next year.
It also recommends a down payment on a new program — the Thurgood Marshall Legal Education Opportunity Program. Congress approved the program in last year’s Higher Education Act reauthorization bill to provide help to needy, high-achieving students interested in legal careers. But lawmakers provided no money for the program in 1999, and the president’s year 2000 budget also earmarks no funds. Gray recommended an initial funding level of $5 million for the first fellowships in the program.
Gray also proposed a $400 increase in the maximum Pell Grant, bringing total funding to $3,525 next year. The administration has proposed a $125 increase, which most education groups have labeled unacceptable.
Among the UNCF recommendations are:
$80 million for Title III-A programs to strengthen needy institutions, including community colleges, up from $60 million this year;
$720 million for TRIO programs, $120 million above current funding;
$50 million to start a “Super Pell Grant” program for needy students with high achievement;
$75 million, a $50 million increase, for Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership Program, formerly known as State Student Incentive Grants;
$135 million for Perkins Loans, a $5 million increa se;
$125 million in new grants to recruit teachers, $50 million above current funding for a program that places a special emphasis on minority teacher recruitment;
$77.5 million for International Education under Title VI of HEA, up $11 million; and
$41 million for Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need, $10 million above current funding.
The House Appropriations Committee will draft a bill this summer to fund student aid programs for the government’s fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Already, Republican congressional leaders have signaled a willingness to go beyond the Clinton administration’s recommendation, at least on the Pell Grant issue. House GOP leaders endorsed a $400 increase in the maximum grant, the same amount sought by UNCF and other organizations. However, the Clinton administration has urged college groups not to support the overall Republican budget plan, which it believes will result in cuts for education and human service programs.
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