HBCUs, HSIs at odds over Title III criteria – aid in doubt at Hispanic and Black-serving educational institutions

The Clinton adminstration is touting a new Hispanic Initiative that
targets both students and colleges, and may leave some tough decisions
for congressional leaders and educators of color.

The February 2 plan rekindles a debate about the appropriate way
the federal government should fund Hispanic-serving institutions
(HSIs). HSI leaders call such aid essential, while African American
leaders wonder whether the plan will undercut Black colleges receiving
aid under Title III of the Higher Education Act (HEA).

Another part of the new Clinton initiative would broaden Hispanic
access to TRIO programs that offer early intervention access, and
retention services. Hispanics are under-represented in TRIO, plan
supporters say. But TRIO officials believe it could change the
program’s structure from one based on income and class to one based on
race.

“I hope we can get together and show a united front between
Hispanics and African Americans,” said Dr. Henry Ponder, president of
the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education
(NAFEO). “Both [minority groups] have had hard times.”

Ponder acknowledged, however, that a gulf remains — one that finds
African American leaders making a complex argument against new federal
race-based funding.

The president’s new Title III budget calls for HSIs to receive $28
million next year, more than double their current $12 million
appropriation. Under the same plan, HBCUs also would get a $16 million
increase beyond their higher funding base, which is $118 million this
year.

Unlike most issues in Washington, D.C., however, the debate is not
simply about money. HSIs want Congress to create a new section of Title
III specifically for their institutions as a way to raise visibility
and attention to a fast-growing sector of higher education.

“We’re basically a footnote under Title III right now,” said
Antonio Flores, president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and
Universities (HACU).

Although HSIs received $12 million this year, that figure falls far
short of its authorized maximum level of $45 million, he said.

But HBCUs vehemently oppose a new program, citing past precedents
and current legal trends. Since HSIs are defined as having an
enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic, Black college leaders
see danger in creating a new program based heavily on race, Ponder said.

“We are definitely opposed to it,” Ponder said, particularly when race-base programs and scholarships are under fire.

Moreover, Congress created the Title III HBCU program not to
provide race-based funding, but — according to Ponder — because of
the special mission of Black colleges and the past discrimination they
faced.

Enrollment, however, is not the only criteria required for HSI
status, and Flores said HACU strongly supports a requirement that at
least 50 percent of the Hispanic students attending these campuses must
come from low-income backgrounds.

“Need is a primary component in this program,” he said.

Hispanic access to Title III triggered some anger last year,
although representatives from both groups met last fall in search of
common ground.

Resolution of the issue carries implications for the nation’s
tribal colleges, who also find themselves part of the Title III debate.
For the first time, tribal colleges would receive a Title III
allocation — $5 million — under the new Clinton administration budget.

Tribal college officials also have told Congress of the need for more federal funding to meet pressing needs.

Congress would play a vital role in any major change to Title III,
and lawmakers will try to resolve the issue during the 1998 HEA
reauthorization.

Adding Race-Based Criteria to TRIO

The second part of the Hispanic Initiative — TRIO assistance —
faces scrutiny from those who question whether this thiry-year-old
program may become a race-based initiative ripe for a legal challenge.

“Any proposal that moves toward race-based funding is abominable,”
said Arnold Mitchem, executive director of the National Council of
Educator of the National Council of Educational Opportunity
Associations (NCEOA), which works on behalf of TRIO programs.

Under current law, TRIO targets students who come from low-income
families and would be first in their families to attend college.
Two-thirds of those enrolled must come from families with incomes below
$24,000 a year and have parents who did not attend college.

The administration’s plan calls for adding “priority points” to new
applicants who propose to reach underserved geographic areas. “This
priority reflects changing national demographics and is expected to
increase the number of Hispanic students served by the TRIO programs,”
according to the new ED budget plan.

But long-time TRIO supporters caution against tinkering with a proven model.

“Trying to turn TRIO into an affirmative action program is unfortunate. These are class-based programs,” Mitchem said.

Current TRIO enrollment is 39 percent White, 36 percent African American, and 16 percent Hispanic.

Title III: Aid for Institutional Developement
(funding in millions)

Program 1997 1998 1999
Funding Funding Clinton
Budget
Strengthening institutions
(Part A) $55.5 $55.5 $60.0
Stengthening HBCUs
(Par B) 109.0 118.5 134.5
Strengthening HBCU graduate institutions
(Part B) 19.6 25.0 25.0
Strengthening Hispanic
serving institutions 10.8 12.0 28.0
Strengthening Tribal
colleges and universities -- -- 5.0
Minority science Improvement 5.3 5.3 7.5

Source: U.S. Education Department, 1999 budget proposal

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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