HBCUs, Access Programs Gain New FundsBy Charles Dervarics
Federal programs designed to promote college access and improve minority-serving colleges are among the winners in the final 2002 budget deliberations involving Congress and the White House.The House of Representatives and the Senate approved legislation just before Christmas that will provide more funds for historically Black colleges and universities as well as Hispanic-serving institutions. TRIO college access services also received a moderate increase, while lawmakers rejected the Bush administration’s earlier call for a sizable cut in the new GEAR UP early college awareness program.House and Senate leaders “crafted a bill that should enjoy unanimous support,” says Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., an early proponent of the GEAR UP program and a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee that writes federal budget bills. “I would just hope as we go forward that we will find again the same type of bipartisan support for GEAR UP and our other efforts to improve our nation’s schools,” he says.For the two-year-old GEAR UP program, the final bill contains $285 million, $10 million less than current funding. However, the White House had wanted to cut funding to $227 million, a notion initially supported by the Senate. If approved, that funding level could have jeopardized existing grants and made new grants virtually impossible.Created in the Higher Education Act Amendments of 1998, GEAR UP supports early college awareness services that start as early as middle school. But it also has a goal of educational reform, seeking to improve academic offerings and services at participating middle and high schools.The new legislation also has a $72.5 million increase for TRIO programs, for total funding of $802.5 million next year. TRIO programs support early college awareness and also provide support services for low-income or first-generation youth once they reach college.Minority-serving colleges would receive a funding boost as well under the budget. Support for HBCUs would increase from $185 million to $206 million, an increase of more than 10 percent. HBCU graduate institutions would receive $48 million, up $3 million from the previous year.Hispanic-serving institutions would realize an even larger percentage gain — 26 percent in 2002, though their funding is still below the total for HBCUs. After receiving $68 million in 2001, HSIs would receive $86 million for the fiscal year that runs through September 2002. The HSI community had sought an increase up to $100 million for the new fiscal year.Elsewhere, the new budget would provide $17.5 million for tribal colleges and $73.6 million for developing institutions, which include community colleges.
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