House Plan Seeks Education Increase

House Plan Seeks Education Increase

Federal funding vital to low-income students and minority-serving institutions would increase under a new 2002 budget bill emerging from discussions in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The legislation from a House appropriations subcommittee would provide $7 billion more for education next year, an increase of 17 percent from current funding of $42 billion. This level is beyond the small increases that President Bush proposed earlier this year.
For Pell Grants, the foundation program in federal student aid, the top grant would increase from $3,750 to $4,000 a year. Education advocates had wanted a $600 increase, but the House plan goes beyond the small White House increase offered in the spring.
Recent reports pointing to a shortfall in Pell  Grants may have spurred lawmakers to go beyond the president’s budget, lobbyists said. Demand also may increase as more low-income students opt for college rather than a job in the uncertain economy.
“It’s hard to predict participation in the program,” says J. Noah Brown, federal relations director for the Association of Community College Trustees. Overall, Pell would get a $1.7 billion increase in the House bill. The funding jump of about 19 percent will cover an expected shortfall as well as larger grants.
Minority-serving institutions also would get additional money under the House plan. The main federal program for Black colleges would see a $30 million increase, to $215 million, next year, sources said. The historically Black college graduate program would realize a $3 million increase, to $48 million in 2002.
Funding for Hispanic-serving institutions would increase by $13.5 million to $82 million, a 20 percent increase for these colleges and universities.
More details about the budget package will be available soon. The House is scheduled to take up the measure late this month.
Overall, President Bush and Congress have agreed to an 8 percent increase in federal spending next year, a move that should lead to spending increases for some education programs.
Both sides reached the agreement after weeks of discussions about how to fund the 2002 budget after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In the end, much of the new anti-terrorism and cleanup efforts will be funded by an emergency spending bill, which means these dollars will not crowd out other spending.  



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