Delegates at the 12th Annual National Capitol Forum, organized by the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities, on Monday asked federal education officials why Hispanic-serving institutions were still being left out of National Science Foundation appropriations designated specifically for minority-serving institutions.
HACU requested a NSF appropriation of $20 million to aid HSIs in research, curriculum and infrastructure development.
“HSIs remain the only group of minority-serving institutions not receiving targeted NSF infrastructure development funding,” said a statement from HACU. NSF funds specifically targeted to HSIs “would enhance the quality of undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics education at HSIs as a means to broaden participation in the nation’s STEM work force.”
HBCUs have received more than $184 million from the NSF since 1998, while tribal colleges have received more than $69 million since the NSF began offering them annual grants in 2001.
Dr. Cora Marrett, NSF’s assistant director, assured the delegates that their request was not falling on deaf ears.
“We’re listening to all the leaders and communities,” Marrett said. “There is an interest in identifying strategies that work and look out for changes — both known and anticipated.”
HACU is also urging the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress to authorize a first-time, $20 million appropriation for graduate education support for HSIs.
“At a time when advanced skills are becoming an ever more important measure of future earnings, tax dollars and the nation’s economic strength, only 20 percent of HSIs offer a master’s degree,” said a statement from HACU. “Less than 12 percent of HSIs offer a doctoral degree and many underfunded HSIs do not have the infrastructure to offer advanced degree programs. Funding for HSIs to develop and enhance graduate programs would help reverse the underrepresentation of Hispanics in teaching, science and other critical professions.”
Kathleen Leos, the assistant deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, said the administration is investigating the deficiencies in funding and is making some progress to correct problems.
“Earlier, the federal agencies would fund local groups for local programs, but now we are taking a more holistic approach,” Leos said. “We’re still playing catch up, but we’re here.”
Officials from various federal agencies emphasized stronger alliances with the Hispanic community by urging educators to encourage students to explore diverse professions that offer them a wider perspective.
“Students at HSIs must develop a global outlook by exploring other countries, cultures and studying languages through study abroad programs,” said Charles Conner, deputy secretary of agriculture.
— By Shilpa Banerji
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