Pell Grant One of Few Winners in 2009 Budget: Despite Work on Education Spending Bill, Congress Unlikely to Complete Work until after General Election

Article excerpt

Education spending bills moving through Congress include a small increase for Pell Grants and several college-access programs next year. But the picture for minority-serving institutions is less dear, particularly for historically Black colleges and tribal institutions.

Legislation moving through the U.S. Senate would provide a $69 increase in the maximum Pell Grant for the neediest students. If enacted, it would provide a top grant of $4,800 next year. A similar bill in the House would improve on that level, with a $169 increase and a $4,900 maximum grant in 2009.

"We would have liked to see more increases, but we appreciate the levels recommended so far," says Angela Peoples, legislative director for the United States Student Association.

But it is not clear whether HBCUs will get an increase. In fact, the Senate education bill actually would reduce the program's regular appropriation by $85 million, offsetting this decline through proceeds from a measure passed last year, the College Cost Reduction Act (CCRA). CCRA earmarked funds for many education programs, though advocates had hoped this funding would be in addition to--not in place of--annual appropriations.

Earlier this year, President Bush proposed an HBCU funding plan similar to the Senate's current version.

The Senate and White House plans are "inconsistent with the federal commitment to HBCUs," says Edith Bartley, government affairs director for the United Negro College Fund.

HBCUs would get more funding from the House education spending bill for 2009, which has no cuts in the regular appropriation for Black colleges, Bartley tells Diverse. …