Wasington Update Briefs - Higher Education

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by Black Issues

Budget Targets Hispanic-Serving Institutions, College Prep

President Bill Clinton is proposing a modest increase for higher education next year, with Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs)  and the new GEAR-UP for College program among the largest winners.
The budget contains more than a 50 percent increase for the Higher Edu-cation Act (HEA) program for HSIs, as funding would jump from $28 million to $42.3 million, a $14.3 million increase. Vice President Al Gore unveiled the proposal as he pushed a Hispanic education initiative with both K-12 and postsecondary provisions.
“Our initiative will ensure that Hispanic students get the education they need and deserve to thrive in the 21st century,” Gore said.
The president’s budget, released Feb. 1, also includes a nearly identical $14.2 million increase in the main Title III program for historically Black institutions (HBCUs).  Because of the larger size of the HBCU program, however, the Clinton budget plan would amount to a smaller 10.5 percent gain.
HBCUs would receive $148.7 million under the plan, compared to $134.5 million this year. The budget also contains $32 million for HBCU graduate institutions, a $2 million increase from current funding.
Under HEA, colleges qualify as HSIs if at least 25 percent of their enrollment is Hispanic and half of Hispanic students are from low-income families. But even if Congress agrees to the president’s request, the HSI budget would represent only about one-fourth the amount of Title III aid for HBCUs.
The HSI budget plan also is the first proposed by the administration after the HEA debate over the future of federal funding for minority-serving institutions. That debate featured some disagreements between HBCUs and HSIs over how to structure expanded federal aid for Hispanic-serving institutions.
Clinton’s plan also contains $6 million for tribally controlled colleges, double the $3 million initial appropriation Congress made last year.
The other major winner, GEAR-UP, would receive twice its first-year budget of $120 million. In GEAR-UP, secondary schools and colleges work together to inform and prepare at-risk youth for college. The Education Department still is writing rules for this grant program, which would increase to $240 million next year under the president’s request.
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), a Congres-sional Black Caucus member, helped develop GEAR-UP after viewing the success of similar local programs in his district. The administration says the large 2000 funding increase could provide GEAR-UP funds to one of every six middle schools with significant numbers of poor children.
The linchpin of federal student aid, the Pell Grant program, would receive a modest increase in the president’s budget. The expected $125 increase, if enacted, would bring the maximum grant to $3,250 for the neediest students next year. The increase would rank among the smaller gains for the program in recent years.
“A few years ago, a $125 increase would be a cause for celebration,” says one lobbyist, who notes that expectations have risen after a busy two-year period in which Congress enacted a HOPE Scholarship and other new programs through HEA.
One of the few new programs in the president’s budget is an initiative to promote retention in higher education. A $35 million college-completion, challenge-grant program would help low-income students stay in college and earn a degree, the administration says.
Federal TRIO programs would receive a moderate increase of $30 million in the year 2000 education budget. If enacted into law, the plan would guarantee Upward Bound, Talent Search, and related programs a total of $630 million next year. TRIO had received a $71 million increase in the final 1999 White House/Congress budget agreement.
The budget plan also would increase funds for two campus-based aid programs. The Clinton budget contains $934 million for the college work/study program, up $64 million from current funding. Funding for Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants also would increase from $619 million to $631 million next year.
The White House did not propose to cut Perkins Loans, the third campus-based aid program and one that has faced repeated requests for cuts or termination in recent years. The year 2000 budget plan would earmark $130 million, the same as current funding.
Federal funding for civil rights enforcement also would increase by 15 percent, to $663 million, under the budget plan. This figure includes $73 million for the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, $7 million above current funding. The White House said the department would use the extra money to work with states on civil rights compliance and fund a survey of K-12 school districts.
Elsewhere, the Justice Department’s civil rights division would receive $82 million, up $13 million from current funding. The new funds would expand investigations of hate crimes and fair housing issues, while $5 million would go toward a grant program for states to hire additional staff, officials said.
Civil rights offices at the departments of Agriculture, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development also would get small funding increases. The bulk of the civil rights budget, $312 million, would go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for a 12 percent increase above current funding.

K-12 Likely to Reap Gains

As expected, President Bill Clinton in February launched new initiatives to increase federal spending on K-12 and preschool education, with a major emphasis on low-income children.
A major highlight of the plan is $1.4 billion to hire more teachers in the early grades, part of the administration’s goal to lower class sizes and help schools employ 100,000 more teachers. At the president’s request, Congress reserved $1.2 billion for the initiative in this year’s budget, and funding priority would go to schools in low-income areas.
“This legislation is the equivalent to the ‘Marshall Plan’ for America’s overcrowded local schools,” says Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.), a Congressional Black Caucus member and senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
Another administration teaching initiative is $35 million to provide college scholarships to 7,000 students who pledge to work at schools in low-income neighborhoods.
“This is over five times the investment Congress made last year, and I think it is a wonderful idea,” Clinton said in a speech announcing new education priorities.
Here is how his budget would treat other preschool, elementary, and secondary programs:
Head Start: The administration seeks the largest one-year increase in history, $607 million, to serve an additional 42,000 children. If approved by Congress, Head Start would receive $5.27 billion next year. The administration also wants to target funds to areas with a large influx of recent immigrants.
Title I: Clinton is proposing $8.1 billion, an increase of $320 million from current funding.
Reading initiatives: The budget contains $128 million more for reading initiatives, including efforts to identify and address early reading problems among children ages 5 to 9.
The budget now goes to Capitol Hill, where lawmakers will hold hearings this spring and summer.

Longanecker Leaving ED

The U.S. Education Depart-ment is looking for a new assistant secretary for post-secondary education following the resignation of David A. Longanecker.
Longanecker has served as assistant secretary since 1993 and is the longest ever to serve in the top post-secondary post, ED says. Longanecker will become executive director of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), based in Boulder, Colo.
There is no timetable to name a replacement, and a department spokeswoman said the assistant secretary would remain at his post for the immediate future.
Longanecker’s appointment at WICHE does not begin until July 1.                          



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