Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Minority-Serving Institutions Seek Long-Term Funding Increases: Advocates Seek Additional Funding through a Couple of Bills under Consideration in Congress

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Minority-Serving Institutions Seek Long-Term Funding Increases: Advocates Seek Additional Funding through a Couple of Bills under Consideration in Congress

Article excerpt

With a short-term federal funding increase set to expire soon, minority-serving institutions and their advocates on Capitol Hill are moving on several fronts to make permanent at least some of these valuable gains.

In a fiscal 2010 education appropriations bill and the newly proposed Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, advocates are seeking to consolidate increases achieved in 2007. At that time, the College Cost Reduction Act steered an extra $500 million to minority-serving institutions--in addition to regular appropriations--with the proviso that the additional funding would end in 2009.

Since President Barack Obama's inauguration in January, groups representing historically Black colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions and tribal colleges have sought to extend that short-term funding. Organizations say the need for long-term extra funding is significant given the effects of the recession on colleges.

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While the Obama White House has endorsed only small increases for these colleges, Congress is taking steps to extend the large investments approved in 2007.

One potential solution is the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which would provide MSIs with a guaranteed $255 million in annual supplemental funding for the next 10 years. The bill also would fund large Pell Grant increases into the future. Congress would pay for these initiatives through savings generated from a phase-out of bank-based student loans in favor of government-run Direct Loans.

"This bill accomplishes something we can all be proud of," says Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, chairman of the House post-secondary education subcommittee. "The bill will streamline the financial aid application process and increase funding for Pell Grants and minority-serving institutions while also helping lower our national deficit."

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, called it a landmark bill that would "put students before banks" in federal higher-education policy. Overall, the measure would channel $87 billion into long-term education investments, including MSIs, Pell Grants, college completion grants and other initiatives.

But the measure faces opposition from House Republicans, who argue that the switch to Direct Loans won't generate the type of savings envisioned by Democrats.

"We've known all along that eliminating the private sector from student lending would cost students and schools the benefits of choice, competition, and innovation," says Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., senior Republican on the Education and Labor Committee. A new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, he adds, shows the move will generate far less savings than some projections.

As a result, much of the $87 billion in the new bill will just increase the amount of federal red ink. …

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