Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

In Tough Economy, MSIs Win Funding Increases

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

In Tough Economy, MSIs Win Funding Increases

Article excerpt

Several minority-serving institutions receive much-needed earmarks.

With Congress completing work on a $410 billion omnibus spending bill, minority-serving institutions can point to some tangible funding gains in the first months of 2009 with the possibility of more gains ahead.

From earmarks for individual colleges to little-noticed provisions of the economic stimulus package, MSIs have realized gains that may help cushion the effects of the ongoing economic downturn. The stimulus package, for example, includes $15 million for the U.S. Department of the Interior to support historic preservation at historically Black colleges and universities.

HBCUs have $700 million in historic preservation needs, says Edith Bartley, government affairs director at the United Negro College Fund. She notes, "We're thrilled with this investment. It's a step in the right direction."

By clearing the omnibus bill and getting President Barack Obama's signature, Congress ensured that federal education programs will receive funding for the remainder of the 2009 federal fiscal year, which ends in September. That bill rejected cuts for HBCUs, Hispanic-serving institutions and tribal colleges proposed by the Bush administration before it left office.

As a result, the omnibus bill has $238 million for HBCUs, $94 million for HSIs and $23 million for tribal colleges. That measure also provides an extra $20 million for TRIO programs, an additional $10 million for GEAR UP and nearly $600 million for the K-I2 Title I education program.

In addition, it protects another need-based aid program, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, from possible elimination. Instead of zero funding, as proposed by the Bush White House, the omnibus provides $757 million in new funding.

Elsewhere in the large omnibus bill, HBCUs would receive $31.5 million and tribal institutions $13.5 million from the National Science Foundation.

The bill would also provide substantial funding to colleges and universities via earmarks, or narrow funding requests from members of Congress. Sometimes called pork-barrel spending, these provisions had delayed consideration of the bill in the House and Senate. President Obama also has signaled a goal to reduce such earmarks.

In a challenging economic environment, however, these earmarks will provide needed funding to many colleges and universities. Among the winners is Saint Augustine's College, an HBCU in Raleigh, N.C. The omnibus bill includes $285,000 to restore historic St. …

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