Senate’s Funding Formula More Generous to Education Than House’s
WASHINGTON — Amid predictions of a federal budget meltdown, historically Black colleges and universities and sponsors of college access programs got a little bit of good news from the U.S. Senate this month.
In its most definitive statement yet on the year 2000 education budget, Senate leaders came out firmly behind a spending blueprint that would provide more generous funding than the plan pending in the House of Representatives. The move by the Senate Appropriations Committee was greeted with relief from education advocates, who believe the White House and Congress ultimately will adopt a fiscal 2000 budget plan with some key education increases.
Missing from the Senate’s spending plan are House proposals to freeze funding for HBCUs and terminate support for the new Gear Up program to encourage college aspirations among middle-school youth. Still, however, the Senate bill falls short of White House recommendations for larger funding increases in both of these programs.
For HBCUs, the Senate would earmark $141.5 million, an increase of $5.5 million from current funding. HBCU graduate institutions would get a $1 million increase, to $31 million next year. The House recommended a funding freeze for both programs, while the Clinton administration sought $149 million for the main HBCU program and $32 million for the graduate program.
In refusing to terminate the new Gear Up program, the Senate sought to provide continued funding for state and local grantees just announced this summer. The Senate plan would devote $180 million to the program next year, up from $120 million currently. However, that figure still would be $60 million shy of the White House recommendation to double program funding next year.
While the Senate supported Gear Up, however, it was not as generous to TRIO programs as the House blueprint. The Senate plan recommends $630 million for TRIO, up $30 million from current funding and the same as the president’s request. The House would have used some of the savings from terminating Gear Up to provide TRIO with a $60 million increase in the 2000 budget.
Elsewhere, the Senate would provide a larger maximum Pell grant than either the Clinton administration or the House plan. With a $3,325 maximum grant, the Senate’s recommendation for Pell reflects a $200 increase in top awards for the neediest college students (see chart on pg. 8). By comparison, the White House had recommended a $125 million increase and the House plan sought a $150 gain.
Here is how the Senate plan would fund other federal programs, compared to recommendations by the House and administration:
Hispanic-serving institutions: $42.2 million, a $14.2 million increase from current funding and the same as the president’s request. The House proposed a funding freeze at $28 million.
Strengthening tribal colleges: $5 million, a $2 million increase from current funding and the House plan.
College work-study: $934 million, an increase of $64 million from current funding and the same as the White House request. The House proposed a $10 million increase.
Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants: $631 million, the same as the White House request and $12 million more than current funding and the House proposal.
Graduate assistance in areas of national need; $51 million, $20 million above current funding and $10 million more than the president’s request.
Howard University: $219.4 million, a $5 million increase from 1999 and the same as the administration and House proposals.
Additionally, as part of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill, the Senate also approved an amendment by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., to provide a $50 million increase in funding for the student financial aid partnership program known as the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership, or LEAP. The program provides grants to poor youth to go to college.
Under the Senate bill, funding for the program totaled $75 million. At that level of support, according to sponsors, the program will leverage at least $120 million in new state funding, thereby securing almost $200 million in grant aid for needy students.
“I am delighted that the Senate has approved this increase in funding for the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership program,” says Reed. “This funding is critical to our neediest students as they struggle to attend and stay in college. This approval reaffirms the importance of the work we did last year in passing the Higher Education Act Amendments of 1998, which reformed the LEAP program.”
The House, Senate and White House are expected to intensify negotiations on a fiscal 2000 budget package this month. Lawmakers have approved temporary spending bills to keep the government in operation for the start of the new fiscal year, which began this month.
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