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More than 100 Black Colleges, Universities Fighting Proposed Spending Cuts

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Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer –

A coalition of more than 100 colleges and universities are fighting to persuade Congress and the special supercommittee not to cut $85 million or more in federal funding. The coalition consists of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).

These organizations, which collectively represent the 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and 50 Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), are opposing proposals that will cut federal funds to HBCUs by $85 million or more and would zero out support for PBIs. Coalition representatives said the proposed funding cuts would come on top of $30 million in cuts already made in HBCU funding.

"The colleges that would have to absorb these cuts serve students who employers are counting on as the next generation of engineers, scientists, teachers, doctors and nurses," said Michael L. Lomax, UNCF president and CEO. "Their education is being threatened at the worst possible time--in the midst of an economic downturn that is already making it hard for them to stay in school and graduate."

Colleges face a double-barreled threat. Funding cuts could be contained in the supercommittee recommendations or made through the normal appropriations process for the current fiscal year. The three organizations support funding levels contained in an appropriations bill passed by a Senate Appropriations Committee for the Departments of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Education. They oppose the sharply-lower levels proposed by House appropriators.

The coalition seeks to rally students, alumni, faculty, staff, administrators and all supporters of HBCUs and PBIs to get their senators and representatives to persuade supercommittee members not to cut the deficit by disinvesting in higher education. The supercommittee has until November 23 to submit recommended budget reductions and revenue increases.

"Cutting federal support for HBCUs would shoot an already-weak economy in the foot," said TMCF President and CEO, Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. "In addition to the students they educate, they impact more than 180,000 jobs, including professors, counselors, staff members and others. Local businesses and national companies depend on the money that the colleges, their employees, and students spend. Their total economic impact is estimated at over $13 billion."

NAFEO, TMCF and UNCF have been leading a tough fight to gain support of Members of Congress to ensure they understand the consequences additional budget cuts will have for HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). In April of 2011, this coalition marched on Capitol Hill and urged support for protecting the maximum funding for Pell Grants, continuing funding for Title III, Part B (undergraduate and graduate programs) and Title III Part A, and continuing funding for the HBCU Capital Financing Program.

In October of this year, HBCU presidents visited the District to advocate for HBCUs, and MSIs, and urged protection of HBCU and PBI funding through Fiscal Year 2012 and the supercommittee deliberations. In October, more than 10,000 HBCU students wrote letters thanking the Obama Administration for its support for full funding for HBCUs and telling their stories of how federal funding for HBCUs is enriching their educational experience.

"Republican and Democratic Presidents have made funding HBCUs a national priority as have successive bipartisan majorities in Congress, in recognition of the fact that HBCUs and PBIs are vitally important to stimulating the economy, preparing excellent, diverse, workers, putting Americans back to work, and meeting the human services needs of traditionally underserved communities," said NAFEO President and CEO Lezli Baskerville.

"HBCUs are great national resources of leadership in the sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, education, health and the environment. They contain costs at a time when the costs of college are increasingly beyond the reach of the masses. HBCUs and PBIs are the best return on investment in the higher education arena. It would be disconcerting if Congress or the Super committee decides to reduce the deficit without raising revenues and by cutting funding for HBCUs and PBIs, the primary incubators of diverse human capital to make the nation thrive."

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