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Black Leaders Say New Education Regulations Will Harm Minorities

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper Staff –

The U.S. Department of Education plans to enact new rules targeting the financial aid eligibility of programs at for-profit career institutions; regulations, which they said, are part of an “effort to protect students from aggressive or misleading recruiting practices.”

However, some Black business and political leaders, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, famed trial attorney Willie Gary, Randal Pinkett, chairman and CEO of BCT Partners, Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the regulations are unfair.

Under the department’s planned “Gainful Employment” regulations, institutions of higher education and post-secondary vocational schools would have to disclose graduation and job placement rates, along with debt levels and incomes of their graduates to prospective students and the department.

Additionally, institutions would also have to provide a five-year projection of enrollment, documentation from employers stating that the institution’s programs meet their business needs, projected job vacancies, and job requirements before the program can become eligible to participate in federal student aid.

Milton Anderson, president of Virginia College’s branch in Jackson, Miss. and a spokesman for the Coalition for Education Success, which opposes the proposed regulations, said that 1.2 million students enrolled at career schools are minorities.

"I am concerned that the proposed rule casts too broad and too general a brush on many institutions, some of whom are doing an excellent job at serving economically disadvantaged and minority students," wrote Jackson, in a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Sept. 15.

Gary voiced his concerns in a newspaper op-ed. “The proposed regulations are aimed at institutions whose graduates don't often become CEOs, doctors and lawyers. Career schools produce nurses, auto mechanics, computer technicians and other skilled workers, whose services are often overlooked and devalued in our society."

In response to the objections and concerns raised, the department said in a statement that it would delay publication of the new rules to take “additional time to consider the comments we received and to host several meetings and public hearings in the coming weeks.” The new regulations were scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 1.

"Let me be clear: we're moving forward on gainful employment regulations,” Duncan said in a statement. “While a majority of career colleges play a vital role in training our workforce to be globally competitive, some bad actors are saddling students with debt they cannot afford in exchange for degrees and certificates they cannot use."

The department expects the regulations to now take effect in the summer of 2012.

HBCUs Get $850M; Still Underfunded, More Aid Needed from Federal Government

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By Charles D. Ellison, Special to the NNPA from the Philadelphia Tribune –

Faced with a sluggish economy and a state budget he once described as “flat” during a faculty meeting, Lincoln University President Ivory Nelson is in a bind like most Black college heads: just getting by. And like others in his situation, Nelson is deeply troubled that federal support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) is nominal.

“If you look at HBCUs as a whole, we receive 3 percent of the overall college population,” notes Nelson, a Grambling University graduate in his 11th year as Lincoln’s President. “But, we graduate 25 percent of all African Americans receiving a college degree. You don’t want to lose that 25 percent — in fact, you want to increase it.”

Addressing those concerns, the Obama administration recently rolled out its White House HBCU Initiative in a bit of fanfare during Congressional Black Caucus week, a follow-up to Executive Order 13532 signed in February that directs $850 million to HBCUs during the next 10 years.

Overall, the spending has been viewed as a boost, with the President committing $100 million more than in previous years.

White House HBCU Initiative Executive Director John S. Wilson Jr. is optimistic, describing the effort as “more empowered” when comparing it to previous administrations since President Jimmy Carter launched the program by Executive Order in 1980.

Wilson sees a holistic approach taking form. “Out of the $120 billion in higher education funding, 4 percent of that is going to HBCUs,” argues Wilson when asked what makes the current President’s initiative different.

Yet, funding parity becomes a major issue when talking with HBCU supporters who describe a lack of federal funding to Black schools for research and development grants, a pot of gold for institutions seeking to enhance prestige and attract additional funding.

“There is a gap when the better funded White institutions get the larger piece of the pie for R&D,” observes one White House Initiative board member speaking anonymously.

And critics express concern that community colleges, two-year institutions serving a large share of minority students, are getting federal dollars that could be shifted to full-degree four-year HBCUs. Nelson cited HBCU competition with community colleges as an “issue.”

Wilson contends the money is there. “There’s too much money to say we’ve got money flowing away from HBCUs,” Wilson says. “We have a more informed and sensitive perspective when it comes to HBCUs and we are better resourced. Of the $40 billion in Pell Grants, a disproportionate share goes to HBCU students.”

Cheyney University President Michelle Howard-Vital also appears upbeat. “I think we have a renewed opportunity with this president to state the case for HBCUs,” says Howard-Vital.

Other HBCU presidents like Nelson are also encouraged, but there is hesitation. “$850 million is a good start, but it’s not enough. It is over 10 years, spread out over many different schools.”

And, it remains unclear how much Members of Congress are helping to marshal resources for HBCUs in their states and districts. Democrats are generally supportive of HBCU efforts, particularly when pushed by a unified effort from the Congressional Black Caucus, which Wilson says works closely with his office. But, there is the usual pushback from Republicans who argue HBCU funding is “affirmative action” straining an already tight federal budget.

Pennsylvania-delegation Members such as Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), whose 7th District houses Cheyney, were difficult to reach for comment. Yet, Howard-Vital heaps praise on Sestak for finding nearly $2 million in federal funding for science programs and scholarships. But, there is concern that Sen. Robert Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.) has yet to visit Cheney or Lincoln’s campus.

“Senator Specter has been here on several occasions,” says Howard-Vital of Cheyney. “Sen. Casey’s Chief of Staff has been here. But, I would like more interface with him.”

Casey’s office claims the Senator has been instrumental in securing federal dollars for HBCUs, including $255 million annually supporting “minority-serving” institutions. “Senator Casey met with Dr. Howard-Vital when she was in DC this summer,” notes Casey press secretary Stephanie Zarecky. “Senator Casey’s office also worked closely with Cheyney [for] the hearing he chaired on college affordability at Temple University last year.”

Marybeth Gasman, an Associate Professor of Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania and a national expert on HBCUs, sees a much more “centralized” effort under the Obama administration. “The current HBCU Initiative is much better organized,” says Glasman. “Obama realized that the Initiative was not as centralized as it could be and so he asked the current director to pool the resources of all of the agencies — basically making them more accessible to HBCUs.”

Still, the funding stream could be more robust argues Glasman. “It’s a start, but I think more could be done. HBCUs have long been underfunded at every level. Critics say that HBCUs are inferior, but they never discuss the unequal support at all levels that has existed from their inception through the current day.”

American Express, Arizona Lottery Fund Diversity Leader Search

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Special to NNPA form the Arizona Informant –

The Arts & Business Council of Greater Phoenix (A&BC) has received funding from American Express and the Arizona Lottery to identify and train potential board members for nonprofit organizations from the Valley’s diverse ethnic communities as well as from the Caucasian, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) communities.

A&BC, which connects volunteers to nonprofit organizations and prepares future board members and leaders, will award 90 scholarships to its Business on Board leadership training program for up to 15 individuals each from the Valley’s Asian, Hispanic, Black/African American, Native American, Caucasian, and GLBT communities, who attend one of four networking affairs and express interest in community service.

Candidates invited to attend special Business on Board classes will only pay the $100 application fee. The remaining cost will be covered through funding from American Express and the Arizona Lottery.

“Our intent through this program is to expand and enhance both the diversity and the available pool of candidates for service on nonprofit boards of directors for the Valley’s human services and arts and cultural organizations,” said A&BC Executive Director Debbie Paine. “The Business on Board program provides training for individuals interested in serving the community, who in turn help create, build, and sustain strong effective nonprofit boards of directors.”

The Business on Board diversity training is scheduled from January to May 2011.

Obama: Extended School Year Could Benefit Students

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspapers Staff –

Though many students across the nation may not like an extra month in the classroom, the extra classroom time would benefit them, President Obama said.

“That month makes a difference,” Obama said during a recent appearance on the “Today Show”. “It means that kids are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer. It’s especially severe for poorer kids who may not see as many books in the house during the summers; [they] aren’t getting as many educational opportunities.”

According to Obama, American students are falling behind some of their international counterparts, particularly in the math and science fields. He added that Chinese, Indian, and other students of fast-growing countries are already leaving U.S. students in the dust.

Currently, U.S. schools offer an average of 180 school days per year, according to data from the Education Commission of the States, in comparison to 196 and 197 days in countries with the highest student achievement levels like Germany, South Korea, New Zealand, and Japan.

Obama also believes that teachers should be more highly honored, as they are in China and other countries, but he added that teachers that aren’t doing well should be fired. While the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” is mandating improvement among the nation’s schools, the President believes parents should increase their involvement in the children’s education.

Asked about whether his own daughters’ would receive the same quality education at a D.C. public school they now receive at their private institution, Obama said during the interview: “I’ll be blunt with you: The answer is no right now.” The president said D.C. public schools are “struggling.”

Critics of the president’s plan to extend the school year believe it will have a severe economic impact, saying the extra time would increase costs for school systems, cause major losses to the country’s summer hospitality industry and have a severe impact on summer camp operations.

“From Memorial Day to Labor Day, we hire many high school and college students for summer employment to work,” Joe McInerney, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association told Fox News. “If we don’t have those people, there will not be enough Americans out there available to fill those positions.”

Though the president believes an extended school year would be “money well spent,” others question how struggling states and districts could pay for it.

“It comes down to the old bugaboo, resources,” Scott Smith, Mesa, Ariz. mayor told the AP. “It costs money to keep kids in school. Everyone believes we can achieve greater things if we have a longer school year. The question is: ‘How do you pay for it?”

Ailing Barbados Leader Re-shuffles Cabinet

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Special to the NNPA from The New York Carib News –

For the third time since he became Barbados’ Prime Minister in 2008, David Thompson, who is battling pancreatic cancer, has reshuffled his cabinet. And, in so doing he gave up the powerful Ministry of Finance, handing that portfolio to Chris Sinckler, the former Minister of Social Care who is now being seen as a possible heir apparent, should Thompson decide to step down. Freundel Stuart remains the Deputy Prime Minister and Attorney-General.

At the same time, he has seemingly demoted Dr. David Estwick, Minister of Economic Affairs while making him Minister of Agriculture & Food. The current Agriculture Minister Senator Haynesley Benn is now the Minister of Commerce, succeeding George Hutson, who has been named the Minister of International Transport and International Business.

The Other cabinet responsibilities:

• Richard Sealy: Minister of Tourism
• Esther Byer-Suckoo: Minister of Labor
• Steve Blackett: Minister of Social Care and Community Development
• Stephen Lashley: Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports
• Donville Inniss: Minister of Health
• Ronald Jones: Minister of Education and Human Resources
• Michael Lashley: Minister of Housing, Lands and Urban and Rural Development
• John Boyce: Minister of Transport and Works
• Patrick Todd: Minister of State in the Ministry of Housing
• Denis Lowe: Minister of Drainage, Water Resource Management and the Environment
• Senator Maxine McClean: Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
• Senator Darcy Boyce: Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office with responsibility for Energy and Immigration.
• Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner: Parliamentary Secretary
• Senator Jepter Ince: Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs
• Senator Harry Husbands: Parliamentary Secretary, office of the Prime Minister

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BVN National News Wire