Budget Increases for HBCUs, HSIs, May Fall Short of Goals
Advocates for minority-serving institutions sought double-digit increases for 2003 budgetFor Hispanic and African American leaders, the 2003 federal budget debate is proving more frustrating than gratifying as Congress tries to finish work this fall.
Both are seeking major funding increases for minority-serving colleges as well as a range of K-12 initiatives to keep youth in school and on a path toward college. Despite a few minor victories, however, prospects for large increases are dimming.
For example, while advocates had sought double-digit increases for HBCUs and Hispanic-serving institutions, the House, Senate and Bush administration are recommending smaller increases in the range of 3 percent to 5 percent.
The Congressional Hispanic Coalition, among others, is disappointed at the results so far, says Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, the coalition’s chairman.
The Hispanic population increase — coupled with higher-than-average dropout rates — make increased federal investment essential, he says. “Closing that gap will make or break the future of our nation,” Reyes adds.
In mid-summer, the Senate proposed modest increases of $7 million, or 3 percent, for HBCUs and $4 million, or nearly 5 percent, for HSIs. Some had hoped for better news in the House of Representatives, but appropriators there postponed a bill-writing session scheduled for Sept. 4.
Instead of producing its own bill, House lawmakers simply re-proposed the president’s education budget plan, which critics have labeled inadequate on many fronts. The Bush plan has 3 percent increases for minority-serving colleges but cuts in several other programs, including dropout prevention and high school reform.
“The House plan is weaker than the Senate’s plan,” Reyes says.
For Black and Hispanic-serving colleges, the current outlook also falls far short of their own goals for 2003. For example, Black college leaders had requested an increase from $206 million to $260 million. Hispanic leaders’ agenda calls for $125 million for HSIs, up from the current $86 million (for more information, see chart below).
Dr. Frederick Humphries, president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Education (NAFEO), says a $260 million target is crucial for HBCUs since it would permit minimum grants of $1 million per college or university.
Elsewhere, both houses of Congress would provide a 3 percent increase, or an additional $1.7 million, for HBCU graduate institutions. There is no corresponding program for HSIs, though the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) is asking Congress for $20 million in a new program of graduate assistance.
The new House bill also would follow the Bush administration’s recommendation of no increase in the maximum Pell Grant increase in 2003. The Senate is proposing a $4,100 maximum grant, a $100 increase. Earlier this year, before projections of a mounting federal deficit, education advocates had raised the prospect of a $500 increase for the program next year.
Despite the small gains for minority-serving institutions, a number of K-12 and education pipeline programs could face cuts or outright elimination next year.
n• High school reform: The Bush administration, and now the House, are proposing to terminate funding for a $142-million program to promote smaller learning environments at overcrowded high schools. The Senate would maintain the program.
n•Dropout prevention: HACU and other groups want to expand a small program to address school dropout issues, while the administration and the House would eliminate the program.
n• Title I: Advocates say a $1 billion increase is necessary to meet the demands of recently enacted K-12 reforms. The administration and the House are proposing a $300 million increase.
Citing the need for more dramatic changes, at least one Congressional Black Caucus member is seeking a major shift in the federal emphasis. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., is proposing a new Student Bill of Rights with accountability measures requiring states to improve teacher training, update materials and promote small class sizes.
“After almost 50 years of lawsuits, presidential commissions, research studies and countless news stories, poor children in every state are still the least likely to get a quality education,” Fattah says. “The Student Bill of Rights asserts that this national scandal to deprive poor children of a decent education must end.”
Fattah unveiled the plan with a Senate co-sponsor, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. For more information, contact Fattah’s office at (202) 225-4001.
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