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HBCU Group Seeks Share of Stimulus

With many chronically underfunded historically Black colleges in need of a lifeline, HBCUs should reap some of the federal stimulus dollars – money they can in turn use to produce needed minority teachers and scientists, recommends the Thurgood Marshall College Fund in a new report.

Released this week, “HBCUs/Stimulus Funding” suggests how historically Black colleges and universities can share in the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that was designed to provide a boost to the U.S. economy. The stimulus package includes $100 billion in funding devoted to education, and representatives from TMCF say some of this money must be used to help HBCUs.

“Our goal is to raise the issues and get the campuses, administration, and broader higher education community talking about them. By virtue of their mission and role in society, HBCUs are ideally positioned to play a critical role in advancing the cause of educational opportunity for all Americans,” said Dwayne Ashley, president and CEO of TMCF, in a letter accompanying the paper.

The report contends that the Obama administration will not successfully fulfill its goal of providing more access to higher education and improving academic achievement if it does not extend much-needed resources to HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.

The paper, co-authored by University of Pennsylvania professor Marybeth Gasman, suggests that Pell Grant, loan and tax-credit programs be expanded in efforts to “lower college costs and raise attendance, retention, and graduation rates.” The report also suggests that an alternative provision be made for those HBCUs and minority-serving institutions lacking the resources to administer a campus-based Direct Loan Program, which the Obama administration has recommended as a replacement for the current bank-run Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

Because research indicates that improving student performance correlates directly to the quality of the teacher, the paper argues that funding for teacher training must be increased. TMCF has an HBCU Teacher Quality and Retention Program, which is “the first national effort” designed to increase the pool of qualified minority teachers who can teach in resource-challenged schools and communities, according to the TMCF Web site.

“HBCUs/Stimulus Funding” also requests that the administration provide HBCUs with more science and technology resources to provide technological upgrades at underfunded HBCUs as well as boost programs that will produce the next generation of minority scientists. The recommendation comes at a time when recent reports say a strong pool of engineers and scientists is needed for a strong economy.

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