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HSI Leaders Appeal For Increased Funding

With the White House proposing cuts for their favored programs next year, leaders of Hispanic-serving colleges and universities descended on Washington, D.C., this week to state their case for more, not less, funding for fiscal year 2009.

“It’s a critical election year, and the time to speak up on behalf of Hispanic higher education is now,” said Antonio Flores, president and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

In its 2009 budget plan, the Bush administration proposed a $20 million cut for the Title V HSI program at the U.S. Department of Education. The budget also seeks cuts for HSI-related programs at the departments of agriculture and housing and urban development, HACU noted.

“This is our single most important opportunity to present a unified voice for Hispanic higher education,” Flores said.

Attendees at the HACU Capitol Forum on Monday heard from a variety of speakers and received briefings on the association’s legislative agenda. For fiscal 2009, which begins Oct. 1, HACU is requesting $175 million for the Title V HSI program under the Higher Education Act.

By comparison, the White House has proposed only $74 million — $20 million below current funding.

In proposing cuts, the administration has said that HSIs are getting a large net gain in support thanks to the College Cost Reduction Act, legislation passed last fall to increase student financial aid and aid to minority-serving institutions. However, while the bill has an extra $100 million for HSIs, these are mandatory dollars that last only two years and target specific needs, such as science and technology education, HACU stated.

The president’s 2009 budget is now on Capitol Hill, where the House and Senate are conducting hearings. Lawmakers will propose spending bills for education programs later this year.

As part of their visit, the HACU leaders were scheduled to visit Capitol Hill Tuesday to make their case with lawmakers and their staffs.

The HEA Title V program is not the association’s only 2009 budget priority, however. HACU is seeking $20 million from a Farm Bill currently under debate in Congress. A U.S. Department of Agriculture official told attendees that his agency is providing educational grants to HSIs that improve colleges’ expertise in areas such as food science, biotechnology and water resource studies.

With the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act up for renewal this year, HACU also is seeking $50 million in new funds to help HSIs expand their teacher education programs. Member colleges also are asking for a separate $50 million program to develop more culturally and linguistically prepared teachers.

Hispanic-serving colleges should not discount the importance of NCLB, said Dr. Sharon Robinson, chief executive officer of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. The fate of this law is closely tied to Higher Education Act, the government’s main post-high school program that also is up for renewal this year.

“These two acts are definitely related,” Robinson told the HACU audience. Both Hispanics and African-Americans have much lower completion rates for college prep math courses, she said. One answer, she said, is the development of a more diverse teaching force that is “well prepared to teach culturally and linguistically diverse students.”

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