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Minority-Serving Institutions Join Forces to Seek Change

Minority-Serving Institutions Join Forces to Seek Change
By Charles Dervarics

In an effort to promote mutual goals, leaders of Black colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions and tribal colleges are endorsing an ambitious agenda that includes a doubling of the maximum Pell grant and new incentives to promote student enrollment in math, science, teaching and other high-demand specialties.

With the Higher Education Act (HEA) up for renewal, leaders of the three organizations are finding common ground on issues that affect all minority-serving institutions. The leaders developed the agenda through their work with the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education, created in 1999 to spur coordination among minority-serving colleges and universities.

The doubling of the maximum Pell grant would take place over a six-year period, the group says. Leaders also recommend that Pell become an entitlement. It is “morally and ethically appropriate” to provide guaranteed Pell funding much as the government currently provides tax credits and loan programs, says a paper outlining the agenda.

About half of all students at minority-serving institutions (MSIs) receive Pell grants, compared with 28 percent of all college students. A doubling of funds also could help restore purchasing power lost when the program failed to keep up with double-digit tuition increases. Overall, the organizations say, Pell pays for only 42 percent of the average cost of attendance at a public four-year institution.

Each organization developed its own recommendations for increased funding of Title III and Title V programs dedicated to HBCUs, HSIs and tribal colleges. Yet the three leaders urged Congress to consider new programming as well, such as a program to help newer predominantly Black colleges and colleges that enroll a significant number of Hispanics but as yet do not meet the definition of an HSI.

“All minority-serving institutions represented by the alliance must receive adequate federal funding to meet the needs of diverse minority student populations that also make up the fastest-growing segment of the college-age population in this country,” says Dr. Antonio Flores, president and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

The organizations were united in urging Congress to consider funding increases for many existing programs and an array of new services to improve access and enrollment.

For example, one recommendation is for a new loan forgiveness program in Stafford loans, the government’s main student loan program. Students of color could claim the loan forgiveness if they complete educational programs in areas with substantial minority underrepresentation, including science, math, information technology, health and teaching. A related provision would increase annual borrowing limits under Stafford.

At a time of growing concern about security and economic growth, improvements in higher education are particularly important, says Dr. Frederick Humphries, president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO).

“We believe that investment in the programs and policies of the HEA is the best way to achieve the goals of prosperity, security and harmony for all Americans,” said Humphries in a statement, co-signed by Flores and Dr. Gerald Gipp, executive director of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

The joint agenda also urges Congress to:

• Give MSIs some preference, including extra points, when applying for federal TRIO grants;

• Offer new, competitive grants to establish teacher centers of excellence at minority-serving colleges;

• Develop new graduate-level and international opportunities to improve offerings at minority-serving institutions; and

• Restore federal financial aid eligibility to prisoners.

The new policies would reflect the increasing importance of minority-serving institutions. From 1990 to 2000, enrollment at MSIs increased by 22 percent, compared to 9 percent growth for all U.S. higher education.

For more information about the agenda, contact the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education at (202) 861-8223 or visit the Web site at .

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