HBCUs Among Few Winners in Bush’s Budget PlanFinancial aid programs see little, if any, gain
Black colleges would receive more money next year while most student financial aid programs face freezes or cuts under President Bush’s new education budget.By percentages alone, minority-serving colleges and universities were one of the plan’s few winners in higher education. The main federal program for historically Black colleges and universities would increase by 8 percent, to $240 million, next year, while funding for HBCU graduate institutions would rise to $58 million — 10 percent above current funding. The Education Department said the proposal “will fulfill President Bush’s commitment” for a 30 percent increase for HBCUs from 2001 through 2005. Support for Hispanic-serving institutions would increase at a smaller rate, 2 percent, in the budget plan. However, the department says HSIs already have received more than a 30 percent increase during the five-year period that ends in 2005.Should next year’s small increase take effect, HSIs would see gains of 40 percent during President Bush’s first term — exceeding the original goal. Overall, Hispanic colleges and universities would receive $96 million.For tribal colleges, the president is proposing $24 million, a 2 percent increase.But financial aid programs for college students would see few, if any, gains next year. The maximum Pell Grant would remain unchanged at $4,050, which brought criticism from Democrats, who note the president has failed to recommend an increase in the program for three years. Funding for major K-12 programs also falls short of the need, said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “President Bush had to choose between honoring his word to public schools, veterans, college students and Americans looking for jobs, and giving billions more in tax cuts to the richest Americans,” he said. “His budget makes it clear he chose to honor the richest Americans.”But Education Secretary Rod Paige praised the budget, calling it another “record” in federal funding for education. “With his 2005 budget request, President Bush has reaffirmed his commitment to our nation’s children, parents and teachers,” Paige said.While there is no increase in the maximum Pell Grant, Paige touted a provision that would add more than $800 million to the program to meet the rising number of students who qualify for grants. Participation in the program increased as many students returned to school during the recent economic downturn.Paige called Pell the “third major increase” in the education budget, following gains for K-12 and special education. This increase in overall Pell funding “will help 5.3 million students from low-income families pay for postsecondary education — 1 million more students than when the president took office.”However, most other higher education programs would see no additional new money under the budget. Funding for Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, college work-study, TRIO and GEAR UP would be frozen at current levels. The president also would eliminate funding for Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships (LEAP), a $66 million incentive program that encourages states to provide their own scholarships.College freshmen could borrow more money under the budget, however. One provision would raise the maximum amount a freshman can borrow to $3,000; the current limit is $2,625.The budget also has mixed progress for job training and career education. The president has a new $250 million initiative, Jobs for the 21st Century, that would fund partnerships between community colleges and employers. However, the budget also would eliminate the community-college tech-prep programs funded at $108 million and cut $300 million from career and technical education under the Carl D. Perkins Act.One winner in the K-12 sector is the Title I program for school districts. The White House is proposing an additional 8 percent, for total funding of $13.3 billion.Paige hailed this $1 billion increase and said, “These are the children who need our help the most.” Critics countered, however, that the administration has yet to fund other No Child Left Behind Act programs at levels envisioned when the bill became law two years ago. States and schools also face new costs to comply with these federal mandates.Bush has proposed “the smallest increase for education in nine years,” said Reg Weaver, National Education Association president. The budget also cuts 38 smaller education programs while proposing a new $50 million choice initiative. Following a congressional victory for vouchers in Washington, the administration is proposing a new Choice Incentive Fund with grants to states, schools or community groups so parents could move their children from failing schools to other public, private or charter schools.“The administration’s budget priorities reveal a double standard, shifting money away from vital education programs while supporting an ideological agenda,” Weaver said.Elsewhere, the budget plan includes $16.5 million for child care programs for the children of college students, the same amount as last year’s funding. Howard University would receive $238 million, a freeze at current levels. For more information, visit the Education Department Web site at <www.ed.gov>.
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