Senate Endorses More Science, Education Funds for HBCUsBy Charles Dervarics
Calling current funding inadequate, the U.S. Senate is proposing moderate increases next year for both well-known and smaller federal programs serving Black colleges and other minority-serving institutions.While one plan would increase funds for the traditional Higher Education Act (HEA) Title III programs for HBCUs, another bill moving through the chamber would reverse proposed cuts in research and development activities at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Such reductions have received little attention to date.The administration-proposed cuts include a 40 percent reduction for a small NSF program to improve research capacity at Black colleges and less funding for a program targeting minority undergraduates in science and technology fields.In a statement, the Senate’s powerful Appropriations Committee said it is “deeply disappointed by the administration’s lack of support in its budget request for assisting smaller research institutions and minorities.”The administration is seeking cuts of 40 percent in the Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology program, for total funding of just $10.8 million next year. That program houses the HBCU Research University Science and Technology initiative (THRUST), which helps upgrade research capacity at Black colleges.Instead of a large cutback, however, the Senate is proposing a 25 percent increase for the program, to $20 million next year.The administration also is proposing a 15 percent cut for the science agency’s HBCU-Undergraduate Program, a $23 million initiative that improves undergraduate instruction through professional development, curriculum reform and other strategies. Instead of a cut, however, the Senate is proposing a small increase next year.Another provision in the Senate bill provides an extra $2 million for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program, which supports mentoring and minority student support. The Bush administration would freeze funding at its current level, $34 million.Elsewhere, the Senate ignored a White House request to cut $10 million, or 40 percent, from a program to recruit and support students interested in science, technology, engineering and math studies. Instead, senators would continue the program at its current level.Overall, the Senate bill restores all but $9 million of administration-proposed cuts in science programs totaling $168 million.The Senate’s action came after the House of Representatives sought to limit budget cuts at the science agency. But while the House largely ignored the cuts, it did not include the increases of the Senate plan.Congress in recent years has endorsed increases in science funding — until now, said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., a critic of the administration’s plan. “Science is a long-term investment in the future by both scientists and the academic community,” he said. But for maximum effectiveness, the federal government must be a “predictable partner” in these efforts.The science bill now goes to the Senate floor for approval. The House version also has yet to come to the floor.Elsewhere, the Senate is proposing moderate increases for HEA Title III programs serving Black colleges. Senators are proposing an 8 percent increase for the main HBCU program, bringing total funding to $240 million next year. HBCU graduate institutions would receive a 10 percent increase to $58.5 million. The House and Bush administration also support these increases.The Senate is more generous to Hispanic-serving institutions than its counterparts. The Senate education-spending bill has $100 million for HSIs, which is $7 million above current funding and $4 million more than the White House request.Tribal colleges would receive $25 million, a slight increase from current funding and President Bush’s request.Due to funding limits, the Senate joined the House in seeking no increase in the maximum Pell Grant next year. As a result, the top grant likely will remain at $4,050 for the neediest students. Here is a look at how the bill would treat other programs:• TRIO: The Senate would earmark $844 million, $12 million more than current funding and $2 million above the House plan;• GEAR UP: Members would allocate $302 million, up $4 million from current funding but $13 million below the House request;• Supplemental grants: Both chambers propose more money, with the Senate offering a slightly larger $29 million increase, for total funding of $800 million;• College work/study: Both the House and Senate would freeze funding at $998 million; and• Howard University: The Senate is seeking $240 million, $1 million more than current funding. The House spending bill has $244 million.Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, both the House and Senate have approved a 50 percent increase in support for the District of Columbia Resident Tuition program, which allows Washington, D.C., high school graduates to pay in-state tuition rates at the nation’s public colleges. Funding would increase to $25.6 million next year, in part due to heavy demand for the program.“It is an amazing program,” said Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., in advocating for the increase. Program supporters note the initiative has increased college-going rates by 30 percent while filling a void for D.C. residents who lack access to an affordable, comprehensive state-run higher education system.The bill also provides D.C. graduates with $2,500 in annual aid to attend private HBCUs and private colleges and universities in the Washington, D.C., area.“For us it means that taxpayers do not move out of the District when the children get to be 15, 16, and 17, because they can walk across the line into a region and get low in-state tuition,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress. The bill now goes to President Bush for his signature, which is expected soon.
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