Congress Delivers: For the Most Part, MSIs, Low-Income and Minority Students Fare Well in Higher Education Funding Bill

Article excerpt

At 119 pages, the final agreement on the College Cost Reduction Act is a challenging read. But tucked inside the plan, which promises the largest infusion of financial aid in a generation, are a series of provisions to promote college access for students of color.

The act has many winners, including minority-serving institutions that will share $500 million in new funding, and low-income students who will benefit when maximum Pell grants increase from $4,310 to $5,400 by 2012. States also will get new grants to promote college access, provided they come up with required matching funds.

"All the financial aspects that will help low-income students are wonderful," says Susan Trebach, spokeswoman for the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) in Washington, D.C.

But the work is not over for organizations such as COE, which is trying to reverse recent policy changes in Upward Bound, one of the TRIO early college awareness programs.

On one hand, Congress did approve funding in the bill for 187 more colleges in the bill and universities to receive Upward Bound grants. The list includes many HBCUs with long-established Upward Bound programs, including Florida A&M University and Talladega College. Advocates say these colleges were unfairly denied funding under flawed new grant criteria.

"We're delighted that these institutions will receive funding,' Trebach says. "It's a huge step forward."

But the College Cost Reduction Act would not yet change the underlying criteria, as some advocates had hoped. …