Congress, Bush Finally Agree on 2003 Budget

Congress, Bush Finally Agree on 2003 Budget
Minority-serving institutions, TRIO, GEAR UP receive slight increases
By Charles Dervarics

After months of negotiations, the U.S. Congress and the White House finished work on a 2003 budget bill with a 5 percent increase for Black colleges and slightly higher Pell grants for needy students.

Approval of the package ends months of posturing and negotiations for the federal fiscal year that began in October. Federal programs had operated with just temporary funds since that time. Adding to the confusion, President Bush in February had to present his 2004 budget plan with the current year’s budget still unresolved.

The final package provides small gains for many programs for at-risk students. The maximum Pell grant would increase by $50, to $4,050. The White House originally sought no increase, citing budget constraints. TRIO and GEAR UP each would receive 4 percent increases, with total funding of $832 million and $295 million, respectively.

Minority-serving colleges each would receive increases in the 5 percent range. Funding for the government’s main historically Black college and university program would increase from $206 million to $215.4 million, while HBCU graduate institutions would receive $53.7 million, a $4.7 million gain.

Hispanic-serving institutions would get an additional $4 million, for $93 million next year, while the $23 million earmarked for tribal colleges reflects an increase of more than $5 million.

The new pact also includes a small increase for Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, a need-based aid program for low-income students. The program would receive $765 million next year, up $40 million from current funding. College work/study would continue unchanged at $1.01 billion.

Lawmakers also rejected a White House request to eliminate the Leveraging Educational Assistance Program (LEAP), which provides incentives for states to offer need-based aid. Instead of elimination, the budget negotiators agreed to continue funding at the current $67 million.

Howard University would receive $240 million, a $3 million increase above 2002 funding.

Some K-12 priorities also would get more funds. Title I grants to schools would increase by $1.4 billion, to $11.7 billion. Both the administration and Congress have targeted this program to help support the new K-12 law, the No Child Left Behind Act. Another increase is targeted for Head Start, which would get $6.6 billion, an increase of $130 million.

To help pay for Bush administration priorities, Congress did include a small across-the-board cut of .65 percent in the education bill. As a result, some programs with level funding could find their budgets shaved slightly when federal dollars reach states and localities.

The budget will carry programs through Sept. 30. Lawmakers already are holding hearings on the 2004 budget plan that Bush submitted in early February.



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