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Senate bill freezes HBCUs – Historically Black Colleges and Universities – includes related article on special education grants – Washington Update

Education Department (ED) support for historically Black colleges and universities likely will remain frozen at current levels next year, based on recent action by members of the U.S. Senate.


The Senate Appropriations Committee this month agreed with the House to freeze funding at $108.9 million in fiscal year 1997, which begins Oct. 1. Both houses of Congress also would freeze funds for HBCU graduate institutions at $19.6 million next year.


The action cleared the way for a likely freeze, with lawmakers hoping to wrap up 1997 spending bills before they adjourn in late September to prepare for the fall elections. The bill is part of an ED funding bill that needs action before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The legislation still would need President Clinton’s signature, and a protracted budget battle could leave programs with only temporary funds for the start of the new year.


Elsewhere in the budget, last-minute additions made by Senate Republicans would boost spending on student aid in 1997. The Senate in mid-September agreed to add $2.3 billion to its education spending plan, bringing it more in line with White House recommendations. The House has not signaled yet whether it would go along with the Senate plan.


The Senate revisions include an increase in the maximum Pell Grant to $2,600 next year. The Senate originally proposed a $2,500 maximum, the same as a House bill from this summer. White House officials called the $2,500 figure inadequate and hinted the president would veto such a proposal, which could set the stage for a shutdown of ED.


The new figure is much closer to the $2,700 maximum grant proposed by the White House. The current maximum is $2,470. College work-study programs are another beneficiary of the Senate amendment. Lawmakers in that chamber want to provide a $200 million increase, to $816 million, in 1997. The original Senate plan called for a funding freeze, and the House wants a smaller increase of $68 million.


If enacted into law, the $200 million increase would bring the program closer to the Clinton administration’s long-term goal of a $1 billion work-study program by the end of the century. The Senate amendment would provide $31 million, or current funding, for State Student Incentive Grants, slated for elimination in this year’s House- passed spending bill.


The remainder of the $2.3 billion Would go to Title 1 grants to school districts, special education grants to states, a new technology education fund and adult education. The bill also provides a small increase for TRIO programs, from $463 million to $477 million. The Clinton administration and the House favor a TRIO budget of $500 million next year.


Overall, Senate Republicans said their new plan “does not create new programs requiring more bureaucracy to administer. It provides maximum flexibility to educators to utilize these additional funds through existing major streams of federal education support.”


The White House has not signaled whether the new amendment moves far enough in its direction to mollify concerns. Senate Democrats still want to add an additional $800 million for programs such as Head Start.


Other provisions include $10.8 million for Hispanic-serving institutions, the same as current funding but $1.2 million below the White House request. Both the House and Senate also would provide $30 million for graduate assistance in areas of national need, up $2.8 million from this year.


The House and Senate bills allocate $187 million and $189 million, respectively, for Howard University. The White House proposed $196 million. House Approves HBCU Restoration Bill Legislation to provide $29 million for historic preservation at Black colleges and universities cleared the House of Representatives last month.


\The Historically Black Colleges and Universities Restoration and Preservation Act would earmark most of the money, about $23 million, to specific universities. Those receiving grants would have to provide matching funds, although the federal government could waive that requirement in certain cases.


“Many of the historic structures located on historically Black colleges are threatened, and a significant effort is needed to preserve and protect them,” said Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), a member of the House Resources Committee.


The bill, H.R. 1179, is similar to legislation the House passed two years ago that did not make it to the president’s desk. However, the earlier version would have provided $35 million more than the current bill, said Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.). Specific earmarks in the bill include: $5 million to Fisk University; $2.5 million to Knoxville College: $2 million for Miles College; $1.5 million for Talladega College; $1.55 million for Selina University $250,000 for Stillman College; $200,000 for Concordia College; $2.9 million for Allen University; $1 million to Claflin College; $2 million to Voorhees College; $1 million to Rust College; and $3 million to Tougaloo University.


The program will be administered by the U.S. Department of the interior, which can grant waivers of the matching fund requirement if, according to the bill, the secretary determines that “an extreme emergency exists” or a waiver “is in the public interest to ensure the preservation of historically significant resources.”


House supporters said they hoped the bill would make it through the Senate before Congress adjourns for the ear “It is a modest bill designed to help our historically Black colleges and universities repair and preserve the history represented by the buildings on their campuses,” said Rep. Bob Clement (D-Tex.). No Senate vote is currently scheduled.


RELATED ARTICLE: HBCUs, Others Eligible for Special Education Grants ED is making available about $3.5 million in grants for minority institutions of higher education to improve the quantity and quality of persons working in special education.


The “Training Personnel for the Education of Individuals with Disabilities” grants are open to HBCUs and other colleges and universities with a minority student enrollment of at least 25 percent. Programs can focus on training of personnel to work with infants, toddlers, preschoolers, children and youth with a variety of disabilities.

Funds also can be used to increase the capacity of colleges to provide such training. The maximum grant is $200,000 a year, and projects can last up to four years, ED said. The department expects to make about 18 awards, with an average award of $195,000. Deadline for applications is Dec. 6.


For technical information, see the Aug. 29 Federal Register, p. 45720, or contact: Victoria Mims, ED, 600 Independence Ave. SW, Room 3513, Switzer Building, Washington, DC 20202-2651; (202) 205-8687.


For applications, contact: Ernestine Jefferson, ED, 600 Independence Ave. SW, Room 3072, Switzer Building, Washington, DC 20202-2651; (202) 205-8761.


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