‘Wartime’ Budget Has Few Higher Education Increases
Historically Black colleges are among the projected winners.
The Bush administration’s self-described “wartime budget” for 2003 would hold the line on higher education spending, with most programs receiving level funding or small cutbacks next year.
The maximum Pell Grant would remain at $4,000, while college work-study, supplemental education grants and TRIO programs would receive no increases.
One of the few winners — as expected — is the Title III Higher Education Act program for historically Black colleges. The budget follows through on a pledge President Bush made in January to increase support for HBCUs by 3.1 percent next year. Hispanic-serving institutions and tribal colleges would get similar percentage increases.
“As the country deals with the priority of homeland security … I’m pleased that our traditional programs have not lost funds,” says Dr. Frederick Humphries, president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Education (NAFEO). “I’m glad to see that Title III was not cut and that financial aid was not cut.”
However, Humphries says he would like to see a greater Title III increase when Congress writes its 2003 spending bills, which can deviate from the president’s plan. NAFEO will develop recommendations for release to Congress later this year, he says.
The main HBCU grant program would increase from $206 million to $213 million next year, while HBCU graduate institutions would get an extra $1.8 million for a budget of nearly $51 million.
Bush administration leaders cited wartime needs in presenting only modest increases in domestic discretionary spending. The bulk of new spending in the budget plan would go to defense as well as anti-terrorism measures at home.
Pell Grant funding has “more than doubled in the last five years,” says William Hansen, deputy education secretary, when questioned about the lack of increases in student aid. “There is more money than ever going into higher education and most of that money is going to low-income students.”
While most major increases in the new budget target K-12 or special education programs, Hansen noted that the budget would maintain a $4,000 Pell Grant maximum at a time when the program is running a major shortfall. Increased student demand for funds may leave a $1.3 billion shortfall this year, and the president’s budget includes an extra $500 million to prevent another shortfall next year.
Despite the recommendations, however, higher education leaders are expected to ask Congress for an increase in the maximum grant. Community college leaders, meeting in Washington this month, are expected to recommend a $500 increase in the program’s top grant to the neediest students.
Overall, discretionary education spending will increase by 2.8 percent in the president’s budget. However, most of the largest programmatic increases are in K-12 services, including an extra $1 billion each for two major programs — Title I education and state grants for special education. Here is a look at how the plan will treat other postsecondary programs:
• Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants: $725 million, same as current funding;
• College work-study: $1.01 billion, same as current funding;
• Perkins Loans, capital contributions: $100 million, same as current funding;
• TRIO, $802 million, unchanged from current funding;
• GEAR UP, $285 million, identical to current funding;
• Hispanic-serving institutions, $89.1 million, up $3.1 million; and
• Tribal colleges, $18.1 million, a $600,000 increase.
The bill would terminate funding for the $75 million Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships program, formerly known as State Student Incentive Grants, that encourages states to offer their own need-based aid programs. The department’s budget states that this program “has accomplished its objective of stimulating all states to establish need-based postsecondary student grant programs.”
The Bush budget forecasts a deficit in 2003, and analysts say domestic programs such as education and training may grow little in future years.
Using the Bush administration’s budget forecasts, cuts of $200 billion are possible in domestic spending over the next 10 years to pay for homeland security, tax cuts and a large defense increase, says Robert Greenstein, director of the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “The budget shows real cuts over five years in domestic spending,” he says.
The budget plan now goes to Congress, which will hold hearings and then write its required spending bill for education, job training and human service programs. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
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