Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Funding Education: Proposed Cuts in Graduate Aid Could Shortchange Minorities

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Funding Education: Proposed Cuts in Graduate Aid Could Shortchange Minorities

Article excerpt

Funding Education: Proposed Cuts In Graduate Aid Could Shortchange. Minorities

WASHINGTON -- The unprecedented partnership between the federal government and the university community is over. As budget-cutting politicians rail against everything from affirmative action to student aid, higher education institutions are facing their biggest financial challenge in nearly half a century.

Alarmed administrators, whose institutions once received carte blanche treatment, are now scrambling for ways to salvage, at least in part, some of the federal dollars they once pocketed for graduate programs and research projects. The Clinton administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have made it clear they will not support them in the manner to which they have grown accustomed.

That said, administrators and students are lobbying hard in Washington for survival of their institutions, programs and aid packages. On Capitol Hill a few weeks ago, incoming Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert was cajoling lawmakers in an effort to stave off threatened federal funding reductions to his institution as a whole. Howard, the nation's largest producer of African Americans with Ph.D.s, is beholden to Congress for 55 percent of its budget, and that does not include money for graduate programs.

Although there is much uncertainty about what programs will be funded or phased out by the federal budget-cutters, one thing is certain: The cash flow will never be the same as it was during the Cold War era, when federal support for education was at its zenith.

As the Cold War with the Soviet Union intensified, it was research and scholarship for universities that propelled the United States into world leadership. Now that the war is over, politicians are no longer interested in "business as usual" with such institutions. In fact, some are complaining that there are too many people with Ph.D.s when they talk about "unfairness" and "entitlements."

What the rhetoric boils down to is attempts to deny access to scores of people who look forward to some of these graduate programs to advance their careers, asserts Charles U. Smith, dean of graduate studies at Florida A&M University. He summed up federal budget-reductions talks as being "up in the air, with one side threatening to cut here, and another there." Some of these programs, he says, survived the Reagan-Bush era and now, "even President Clinton, unfortunately, feels the need to yield to the Republicans and Newt Gingrich" and go along with proposed cuts.

"Many people don't want Black people to have graduate education," says Smith. "They think that it is almost too much for them to get through K-12. It all ties in with the affirmative action debate. There are all kinds of agendas operating in this budget. Some of those guys are against anything that supports poor people and Black people."

On the Chopping Block

According to the Council for Graduate Schools, federal support for equal access to higher education extends to graduate and undergraduate level. The graduate programs fall under the aegis of Title IX, which provides fellowships and scholarships to underrepresented minorities for careers in research and teaching, and in the arts and humanities.

Stability and financial support is especially important in these programs because of the demands research place on students. As anyone in graduate study would admit, individual commitment to such work requires scholarly preparation beginning at the undergraduate level and continuing to advanced programs that can last up to 10 years. Fellowships and scholarships not only reduce loan dependency, but they help to create incentives to enter into certain careers.

Some of the graduate programs slated to be shaved or shelved include the Patricia Roberts Harris Fellowships, the Jacob Javits Fellows, the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN), and the Faculty Development Fellowship program. …

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