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Washington Briefs

Clinton Initiative Would Improve Access to Services

WASHINGTON — A new initiative from the Clinton administration and several members of Congress may benefit Black colleges, two-year institutions and students of color in high-poverty areas of the South.
The president’s New Markets initiative seeks to promote economic development and community improvements in several high-poverty areas nationwide. Following the lead of several congressional lawmakers, Clinton’s plan includes a specific goal to target the Mississippi Delta region, which encompasses seven states and 219 counties in areas near the Mississippi River.
Supporters of the plan envision a series of initiatives to improve services, including education, in the counties located in Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois. These states are home to many HBCUs that could benefit from the program, sponsors say.
One goal is to help schools, colleges and communities gain better access to federal services, including grant competitions and program funding. To support that goal, the U.S. Department of Education recently held a workshop to help colleges, particularly two-year institutions, learn more about available federal funds. Such initiatives, if successful, could improve everything from student retention to community outreach services.
“We want to strengthen their hands with more information on federal grants and programs,” says Jacqueline Woods, the Education Department’s liaison for community colleges. Other federal agencies, including the U.S. departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture, are expected to offer similar workshops again to highlight federal funding opportunities.
The other major part of the initiative is to give the Delta area a higher national profile as well as more funding. Newly proposed legislation from Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., would create a Delta Regional Authority similar to one that has existed for decades in Appalachia, another concentrated high-poverty area.
The authority would serve as a “one-stop shopping” center to provide access to business development, education and other services, Lincoln says.
Co-sponsors of the Delta plan include several Congressional Black Caucus members such as Reps. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., and Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.
The White House recently pledged $30 million, should Congress approve it. Overall, the administration is proposing $110 million for Delta-related initiatives. Poverty rates in the region average about 20 percent, nearly double the national average.

Forum Focuses on Education Needs of Hispanics

WASHINGTON — The education and workforce development needs of the nation’s fastest-growing minority population was the focus of the Election Year 2000 National Capitol Forum on Hispanic Higher Education, held here earlier this month by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.
Members of Congress and federal agency leaders joined national minority and labor rights advocates to address issues ranging from the impact of the Hispanic vote on this year’s presidential election to the lack of adequate federal funding for those college campuses home to the largest concentrations of Hispanic students.
“The public’s support for education always has been a high priority. Yet Congress each year fails to adequately address the education needs of Hispanics, who suffer historically high dropout rates and limited access to a college education,” says Dr. Antonio Flores, president of the association. “The implications are critical for an economy that will increasingly rely on the advanced skills, earnings and tax dollars of this fastest-growing and youngest minority population.”
Association leaders outlined new proposals for record federal funding increases for programs directly addressing the education needs of Hispanics from kindergarten through graduate school. Association leaders called for a $75 million Title V appropriation to Hispanic-serving institutions for 2001.
Following last year’s Capitol Forum, Congress approved a record new $42.25 million appropriation to Hispanic-serving institutions for fiscal 2000 under Title V of the Higher Education Act. This represented a significant increase over a $28 million Title V appropriation to Hispanic-serving institutions for fiscal 1999.
The association, with headquarters in San Antonio and offices here, represents 237 colleges and universities with high Hispanic student enrollment rates.

GEAR UP Offering $47 Million in Grants

WASHINGTON — Students of color may gain from the U.S. Department of Education’s latest announcements under the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP.
Department officials say they will make available $47 million in grants for states and local partnerships that work with low-income middle-school students and help them prepare for highschool and college study. Modeled on the I Have a Dream program, in which philanthropists pledged college scholarships to sixth-graders if they finished highschool, GEAR UP provides federal funding for support services and outreach to secondary school students and their parents. College funding would come from federal student-aid programs as well as state scholarships.
Local partnerships must include at least one college or university and a local school district. Governors may designate the state agency appropriate for a state-level program.
States that win grants must offer some type of scholarship to participants when they reach college. Scholarships are an option for local partnerships.
Department officials say they expect to award 74 partnership and six state grants under the competition. State grants will range from $2 million to $5 million. There is no minimum or maximum for local partnerships, but the Education Department will provide no more than $800 per student in aid.
Black college officials have targeted the program among several that they believe need to place a greater attention on HBCUs, either as grantees or partners in college awareness programs.
Grant applications are due June 26. For more information about the competition, visit the Web site at <>. The U.S. Department of Education also released rules governing the GEAR UP program April 27. More information is available from the department’s Web site at <>.

Perkins Grants at Center of Looming Senate Debate

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Senate showdown is looming on yet another plan that may tinker with vocational education funding under the Carl D. Perkins Act.
Funding for vocational schooling is already under the budget microscope in the Clinton administration’s fiscal 2001 budget, which calls for a $200 million funding decrease to support a corresponding increase in technology education. That issue is now in the hands of the House and Senate. Both branches are writing education-spending bills for the next fiscal year.
In this latest Senate challenge, lawmakers have added Perkins to a list of programs that states could combine into a flexible education block grant. The chief sponsor, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., says the plan would increase state flexibility to reform K-12 services. Many Democrats are critical of the idea, however, and the moderate Republican who chairs the Senate’s education committee, Sen. James Jeffords, R-Vt., also may seek to remove the provision.
States provide the bulk of Perkins grants to school districts, but about 35 percent of program funding goes to the higher education sector, where funding flows primarily to community colleges.       

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