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Minority-serving Institutions To Lose Funding Under Obama Budget

The Obama administration proposed its first full education budget Thursday, with funding for an array of new programs but a net decrease for minority-serving colleges and universities.

The line-by-line budget would cut funding for historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and Hispanic-serving institutions, because it fails to make permanent a temporary spending increase enacted for the past two fiscal years.

Back in 2007, Congress allotted special funds to HBCUs, HSIs and tribal colleges, giving them $500 million from savings achieved through student loan reforms. This spending was scheduled to last two years and end after fiscal year 2009, although advocacy groups have sought to make the increases permanent.

The short-term funding includes annual allotments of an extra $100 million for HSIs, $85 million for HBCUs and $30 million for tribal colleges.

“This budget makes tough decisions,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a news briefing outlining the budget.

Commenting on the short-term spending increases for HBCUs and HSIs, he said, “It was absolutely set up as a two-year program.”

While acknowledging their budget would cut MSI funding, administration officials said students of color stand to gain significantly under other initiatives, including Pell Grant increases and a new $2.5 billion program supporting a major Obama goal, increased college completion rates.

“If we’re going to get close to the president’s goals, these grants will be very important,” Duncan said.

The budget also would raise the maximum Pell Grant to $5,550 and have future allotments mirror inflation. Funding for college access and preparation programs would remain unchanged; federal TRIO and GEAR UP programs would continue to receive $905 million and $313 million, respectively.

Robert Shireman, deputy education undersecretary, said he expected HBCUs, HSIs and tribal colleges to lobby Congress this year to continue the special two-year allotments.

He also noted the new budget has small increases in discretionary funding for minority-serving institutions. These are the annual, permanent pots of federal money that flow to HBCUs, HSIs and tribal institutions (see chart below).

A Black college group said it would continue to push for more money for these programs. “We’re encouraged by many areas of the president’s budget,” said Edith Bartley, government affairs director at the United Negro College Fund.

But, she added, “We would have been even happier” to see the additional $85 million for HBCUs continued in the 2010 budget.

“Significant increases need to go to these accounts,” Bartley told Diverse, given the nation’s changing demographics. For its part, UNCF will ask Congress for steady increases for the HBCU program until it reaches $1 billion a year by 2014. She called the federal program “a lifeblood of our schools,” and one that is particularly important during the current recession.

Other line items in the budget include $8 million for predominantly Black institutions (PBIs), $61 million for HBCU graduate institutions, $11.5 million for master’s degree programs at HBCUs and PBIs and $11 million for postsecondary programs at HSIs.

Elsewhere, the $47 billion budget would increase education pipeline spending. Two new programs would provide $800 million a year for early childhood programs. It also has $1.5 billion in new Title I school improvement grants, extending a program from last winter’s stimulus package that allotted $3 billion for this purpose.

The administration would eliminate 12 small federal programs costing $550 million as well as an education policy attaché in Paris working on United Nations issues.

The budget also would save $4 billion by reducing bank subsidies for federal student loan programs. The administration says it would plow most of that savings back into new spending on low-income children and students.



*Mandatory funding authorized only through fiscal year 2009.

** Mandatory funding authorized through 2010.

Source: U.S. Education Department

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