Hispanic Leaders Seek New Influx of Funds

Hispanic Leaders Seek New Influx of Funds

Despite predictions of a tightening federal budget, Hispanic leaders are asking Congress to fund a new initiative that would expand graduate programs at Hispanic-serving colleges and universities.
The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) is looking for a $20 million down payment for a new program that would bear a strong resemblance to the existing graduate education program for historically Black colleges and universities under Title III of the Higher Education Act. Under Title III, HBCUs have one pot of money for capacity building and institutional development and a second pot of funds solely to improve postbaccalaureate offerings.
Under current law, Hispanic-serving institutions receive $68 million for curriculum and infrastructure improvements under Title V of the Higher Education Act. However, this new pot of money would focus specifically on graduate studies.
“Many of our colleges are not prepared to offer advanced degrees,” says Gumecindo Salas, HACU’s vice president of government relations. “We’re going to have to do something about expanding our capacity to do that.”
Many of the nation’s 203 HSIs are two-year colleges, and most of the four-year institutions that qualify as HSIs have only a smattering of graduate programs. In a 1999-2000 College Board study, only 30 percent of HSIs had a master’s degree program and less than 12 percent offer a doctoral degree. Yet, Hispanics are underrepresented in many graduate fields, a challenge that could be addressed through more HSI programs.
According to Salas, graduate programs are particularly critical for HSIs since studies show most students take graduate studies in the state in which they live.  As a result, for example, Hispanics living in Florida, Texas and California may have few in-state options for graduate school. The alternative is to attend large out-of-state schools where tuition is steep, he says.
So far, HACU has discussed the plan with Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House subcommittee on postsecondary education, among other lawmakers.
“We’re getting a good reaction,” says Salas, though fiscal constraints may keep a lid on new higher education spending in 2002.
Another potential obstacle is the current Title V program, which allows Hispanic-serving institutions to spend their $68 million annual appropriation on graduate education, among many other uses. However, Salas says, HSIs have many pressing needs for this money. “We really need a separate program” of graduate aid, he says.
Where it falls in the federal budget is another question. HACU has recommended that the new program go into Title III, which, in addition to HBCU aid, includes financial assistance to other developing institutions. However, the program also could fit into Title V, Salas says.
Currently, the Title III program for HBCU graduate institutions is funded at $45 million. HBCUs also receive $185 million a year through a separate Title III program supporting general curriculum and facility improvements.
In addition to $20 million for graduate institutions, HACU also is seeking an increase in the Title V HSI program from $68 to $100 million next year. If Congress approves both recommendations, HSIs would get $120 million under HEA programs.
The Bush administration is recommending only small increases for minority-serving institutions in 2001. HSIs would get an extra $4 million, while HBCUs would receive an additional $15 million, including $3 million for graduate education. Critics have labeled this plan inadequate, and lawmakers are expected to write a fiscal 2002 education spending bill this fall.
Elsewhere for 2002, HACU is requesting $20 million in Department of Defense funds, including $10 million for research projects and $5 million for a National Security Fellows program to help HSIs participate in projects at government research laboratories.
The association representing HSIs also is asking Congress to set aside $10 million in National Institutes of Health funds to support faculty development. This funding would bring Hispanic institutions more on par with HBCUs and tribal colleges in the health agency, Salas says.
The HACU plan is among several major initiatives this year to expand aid to minority-serving institutions. Last spring, several dozen House Democrats proposed a doubling of aid to HBCUs, HSIs and tribal colleges within three years. The plan also includes support for historic preservation and teacher development at these institutions. 



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