Lack of Action on Federal Education Budget Draws Concern
Concern is mounting in Washington about the continued lack of action on a federal 2001 education budget for student aid and other programs.
Pell Grants, college work/study and aid to Black colleges all have temporary funding that was to last through Dec. 6. These programs have had short-term funds since the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year because of disputes between President Clinton and Congress. Partisan sniping has increased in intensity since the contested Nov. 7 presidential election.
Another source of concern is talk that Republicans may put off final budget discussions until after January, presumably when they would control the White House under George W. Bush.
“The worst part is the uncertainty,” says Corye Barbour, government relations director for the United States Student Association. While programs can operate with temporary funds for a few months, a wait into January is ominous, she says. “In January you cross the semester line,” she says, and lack of a final budget could make it tough for financial aid directors to craft aid packages.
Moreover, students can begin to file their next financial aid applications after Jan. 1, Barbour notes, and lack of a budget could cause delays in processing aid applications. “It could get hard to counsel new students and students on the margins,” she says.
The extended delays also hurt such programs as the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, championed by Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., among others. At its current funding of $200 million, the program lacks enough funds to support all its grantees. President Clinton wants to increase the program’s budget to $325 million.
The tentative budget compromise reached in October would have provided $300 million to $325 million for GEAR UP, Fattah says. However, that deal fell through when Republicans left the table in objection to new workplace regulations unrelated to the education budget.
Local GEAR UP directors met in the Washington area last month to discuss the program’s budget, among other issues. During the meeting, speakers urged the directors to take a strong advocacy role to build support for the program, which targets at-risk middle schools, offering students a variety of services to help them prepare for college.
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