by Kim Lampkins
When it comes to President Obama 'cutting' funds to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) ... Oh NO, he DIDN'T!
North Carolina A&T
An AP headline and story sparked outrage last week with accusations that President Obama had "turned his back on black college students." The writer says Obama 'cut' budgets, when in fact the Obama administration increases funds to HBCU's.
The blogosphere has been absolutely rabid with criticism of President Obama's proposed education budget, and what's been described as a "cut" in funds to over a 100 of the nation's federally recognized HBCU'S--Historically Black Colleges and Universities. At issue, a temporary 2-year grant created by Congress in 2007 to supplement the already existing Title III provisions. On the issue, the shouts of "hold the President accountable" are ricocheting throughout cyberspace! On this issue,my voice is not part of the chorus.
** Title III: The program helps eligible institutions of higher learning to become self-sufficient and expand their capacity to serve low-income students by providing funds to improve and strengthen the academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability of eligible institutions.
**In 2007 Congress passed sweeping legislation to make college more affordable for students across the nation, via the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. (CCRAA) As part of this landmark piece of legislation 170-million dollars (85-million each for fiscal years 2008 and 2009) was targeted for 105 HBCU's via Title III. The funds were part of an overall 510-million dollars included in an over 18-BILLION dollar piece of legislation. Hispanic, Native American and other minorities institutions also benefited from this 510-million dollar provision to help offset years of underfunding.
When the Obama Administration's Fiscal Year 2010 budget was released last week, many were dismayed that this 2-year supplemental grant--85-million dollars each year--was not extended beyond its expiration date. Many, in my viewmischaracterized this as a budget 'cut'. It was, in my view, mischaracterized as a sign of President Obama's indifference to Black college students and HBCU's. I didn't buy it!
In an effort to find out how HBCU officials were interpreting the news, I spoke with a Title III Administrator at an HBCU in the northeastern U.S. This official acknowledged that he, "never expected to receive the extra funds past the 2009 expiration date." He said, "It was understood that they were temporary grants for 2008 and 2009."
He was however, concerned that the budgetproposal submitted by President Bush in June of 2008 did NOT include the extra funds, but had actually cut traditional discretionary funding by 85-million dollars, while using the temporary Congressionally mandated grant funds to make up the difference. He was concerned about how that proposed cut would pan out beyond 2009.
Our conversation took place Tuesday (5/19) before he saw the actual numbers in the Obama administration education budget; however he learned the answers today (Thursday 5/21) after receiving and reviewing the budget.
Via email this HBCU official writes: "I just reviewed a copy of President Obama’s budget request for the Department of Education. In that request, President Obama is recommending $296,595,000 for the HBCU and HBGI (Historically Black Graduate Institutions) programs and an additional $85,000,000 for the CCRAA in fiscal year 2009 that begins on October 1, 2009.
As I indicated previously, it was understood that the CCRAA grant is a two year grant, the first award received in Fiscal Year 2008.
President Obama’s budget for FY 2010 shows increases in the appropriations for HBCU ($250,000,000) and HBGI ($61,425,000); together, this request represents a $20,830,000 increase in the appropriation over the preceding year.
How can this be interpreted as not supporting Black Colleges? Someone is sorely misinformed about the President’s support. What President Obama has initiated, so far, indicates more than ever that he supports Black Colleges."
End of email
Still, there is a move a afoot on Capitol Hill by UNCF officials and others to have the temporary grant made permanent. Requests have been made to House and Senate Approriations Committees for a line item increase in the budget. UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael Lomax states, "I'm confident that if the request is made, President Obama will not reject it."
I close with this: I understand the calls to hold the President accountable, we should absolutely hold all of our elected officials accountable. But WHO was holding then President Bush accountable when HE proposed to decrease the HBCU's budget and make up the difference with funds from the Congressionally mandated College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA)? That budget proposal basically amounted to a proposed misuse of funds. IMHO