Washington Briefs

House OKs Record HBCU Spending Bill
WASHINGTON — Despite partisan bickering on other issues, the House of Representatives mustered enough support for a fiscal 2001 education budget bill with record spending for historically Black colleges and universities.
The 217 to 214 vote puts the House on record favoring a $50 million increase above current federal funding for HBCUs in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. If the bill becomes law, HBCUs would get $230 million. Of that amount, $45 million would go to HBCU graduate institutions.
All of the funding levels are above President Clinton’s education budget request for 2001.
Even though the legislation has large increases for HBCUs, however, other spending provisions make the bill a difficult sell to Democrats and the White House. Despite the targeted increase for HBCUs, the overall bill shortchanges K-12 education, providing about $3 billion less than the Clinton budget request, administration officials say.
As a result, a White House veto of the bill is possible. However, some analysts say provisions such as the ones for HBCUs may remain as part of a compromise package.


D.C. Students’ Tuition Break Expanded
WASHINGTON — All public colleges and universities — not just those in Maryland and Virginia — soon will gain the flexibility to participate in a tuition discount program for aspiring college students from the District of Columbia.
The move is an expansion of legislation signed last year by President Clinton in which the government agreed to pay up to $10,000 annually per student to help D.C. youth attend public colleges in states bordering the District. Advocates sought the legislation after claiming that D.C. students lacked access to the comprehensive public higher education system available to youth in other states.
The plan effectively permitted D.C. youth to pay “in-state” tuition rates in Maryland and Virginia — with the federal government picking up the difference.
For students seeking “in-state” access outside the District, benefits are slated to begin this fall. D.C. officials realize that Maryland and Virginia institutions lack enough “slots” for District youth, particularly compared to the slots available for in-state youth in other state college systems nationwide.
This being the case, the legislation allows the District to expand the program so that a D.C. student can get the tuition benefit at any public institution nationwide — far beyond neighboring Maryland and Virginia.
The program and its new expansion can provide many benefits to D.C. students, but lack of information already is leading to some confusion, District leaders say.
“I meet parents and students literally every week who are unaware of important aspects of the new tuition benefit that could save them thousands of dollars. Many do not know about the nationwide provision,” says Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., the district’s nonvoting representative in Congress.
According to Norton, launching an information campaign on the program for both D.C. residents and the nation’s colleges and universities is a high priority.
“What is most important is to get D.C. students to think hard about college and to apply, because in today’s economy a college degree is often required for good jobs,” she says.
The federal government has committed $17 million for the first year of the program. In addition to the new public college tuition benefit, the program also includes these provisions:
n D.C. students attending private colleges in Washington, D.C., or its suburbs can receive aid of $2,500 to offset their tuition costs.
n The public college benefits are open to rising sophomores and juniors as well as incoming freshmen.
n To qualify for aid, students must have received a high school diploma or the equivalent after Jan. 1, 1998. They also must reside in D.C. for at least a year before attending college, and they must lack an undergraduate degree.
In addition to the tuition benefit, the 1999 law also has provisions to bolster the District of Columbia’s own public college system. One section of the law authorized $2 million in aid to the University of the District of Columbia, which also gained designation as a historically Black university under the plan.
For more information about the tuition benefits or other provisions of the D.C. aid bill, contact Norton’s office at (202) 225-8050 or visit the city’s Web site at http://www.dc.gov.


Group Rallies for More Education Funding
WASHINGTON — College students, administrators and higher education association officials assembled here late last month to rally Congress for an additional $5.5 billion in federal appropriations over this year’s education spending.
“[We] urge you to go the distance for education funding in fiscal year 2001. Support an increase of at least 15 percent or $5.5 billion in appropriations to meet the pressing educational needs of America’s children, youth and adults,” reads a letter from the Committee for Education Funding, a bipartisan organization that sponsored the rally.
The letter was signed by the heads of 63 education associations, including the National Association for Equal Opportunity, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, the American Council on Education and the American Association of Community Colleges.
The group says that while federal allocations for education have increased over the last several years, they have not kept pace with growing student enrollment and more students from low-income families seeking access to higher education, among other things.
“Recent polls show that 61 percent of the American public believes that the federal government spends too little on education,” the group’s letter concludes. “Americans expect the federal budget to reflect a national commitment to improve and expand educational opportunities to secure America’s future.”
Several Congressmen joined the rally as well, including Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., Sen. Pat Murray, D-Wash., Sen. James Jeffords, R-Vt., Rep. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Rep. Jack Quinn, R-N.Y.    



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