Biden plan pits Hispanic colleges against HBCUs

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The head of the education department is Latino, and the latest census data has removed any doubt about the potential weight of the community. The way House Democrats wrote the multibillion-dollar reconciliation measure – which would force institutions serving minorities to compete for billions of dollars – has also mobilized Latino advocates of higher education. They wield influence in Congress – even at the risk of alienating the HBCU advocates who are better known on Capitol Hill.

“It’s a question of resources,” said Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz), co-chair of the Congressional Hispanic-Serving Institutions Caucus, which supports adding more money to grants, though Democrats are looking to reduce the size of the bill. “We should not go on the robbery of Peter to pay Paul, or argue over an amount that does not meet the needs of the respective groups of people.”

He warns that a competition for resources could create conflict between education advocates who could benefit from an alliance.

“It’s difficult only because I don’t want to add to a division that is unnecessary at the moment,” he said while noting that Democrats are still trying to get their project to cross the finish line. troubled law. “As communities of color, it is best to be as unified as possible in the future.”

Advocates for Latino students have rallied throughout the summer and fall to ensure that Latino students are not harmed by what the Biden administration has billed as a one-time investment in a generation.

Undocumented students could access federal financial assistance through the social spending program. Resource-poor HSIs and other minority-serving institutions would be allocated billions of dollars in research and development grants. And Biden’s push for a free community college could make higher education more affordable for their students, as 52% of Hispanic undergraduates attend these institutions.

But some Latino education groups also want federal dollars for Latino students in K-12 classes or migrant students, making it harder for lawmakers to focus on the topic that advocates for Latino students find. the most urgent: the university.

“We have so many areas of interest and focus, it has really been more of a challenge to understand how we consolidate this power base around a program that addresses the current path and Latinos in higher education,” Deborah Santiago, CEO of Excelencia in Education, an organization that advocates for Latino students, said in an interview.

What groups want

Senses Bob Menendez (DN.J.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) Launched the first Senate caucus dedicated to Hispanic institutions last month, just days after the Biden administration launched a new initiative dedicated to Hispanic academic success. And with Donald Trump out of the White House, many Latin American education advocates and their allies in Congress say they are pushing for every advantage they can with the Biden administration after four years of pent-up frustration .

“We have the opportunity here not only to defend, but also to help shape what goes forward,” Grijalva said of the Biden administration. “It’s not just about sitting down at the table. It’s having the resources to do something with this seat.

Despite the extensive education programs already outlined in Democrats’ reconciliation bill on free community colleges and universal kindergarten, groups representing Hispanic students want more and representatives from Hispanic institutions are among the most vocal in the corridors of Congress.

“We have always known that HSI have historically been historically underfunded and have been overlooked by Congress and the administration, regardless of party or who controls,” said Antonio Flores, president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges. and universities. “As an association, we have pushed for change to make sure they are treated fairly and just. “

They want a college completion fund to increase graduation rates, targeted goals to increase recruitment and retention of diverse teachers, and fewer barriers to applying for federal financial aid, among other demands.

To become an HSI, a college or university must have a Hispanic student body of at least 25 percent for full-time students.

“HSIs are the clearest vehicle of our federal policy to support Hispanic students with targeted resources,” Santiago of Excelencia in Education said. “But the reality is not that all HSIs serve intentionally.”

Because the funding formula is focused on enrollment, Santiago wants lawmakers to “discern those who really serve” versus institutions that only enroll Latino students so that limited federal dollars can be properly targeted towards them. schools with the best academic results.

Another sticking point is more mundane: Many members of Congress do not know what institutions that serve Hispanics are.

“We are the new kid on the block in terms of having been recognized by federal law for the first time in 1982, when HBCUs, of course, have been around for over 100 years,” said Flores. “We need to catch up on brand recognition.”

Ruffled feathers

On the higher education front, increased advocacy could spark tensions between institutions serving Hispanics and other institutions serving minorities as they vie for the same small pot of money in the spending program. billions of dollars in social security.

The Build Back Better Act seeks to allocate $ 2 billion for research and development infrastructure and $ 1.5 billion in new funding for direct aid to all institutions serving minorities – a reckless division of dollars according to advocates of HBCU and HSI.

HBCU want Democrats to include IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act – sponsored by Representative Alma Adams of North Carolina, a mainstay of the historically black college and university bipartisan caucus – in the spending bill, which would help their institutions modernize campus facilities. They also want the money for grants already entered in the measure to be split into separate pots, allowing HBCUs to compete only with other HBCUs for grants.

Adams said she would vote against the Democrats’ social spending bill unless the congressional leadership increased funding for HBCUs. She also pledged to pass her HBCU infrastructure bill, which has more than 100 co-sponsors, although it is not included in the spending program.

“You can’t rebuild better, in my opinion, without rebuilding HBCUs better” she said.

HACU, the largest lobbying group for HSIs, wants lawmakers supporting HBCU infrastructure legislation to amend the bill to allocate 39% to HSIs – the biggest chunk of the bill – and leave 33% to the HBCUs. The group says it would be the same split as the mandatory funding formula in the Supplementary Appropriations Act for Coronavirus Response and Relief. However, the formula proposed by the bill would provide over 42% for HBCUs and 18% for HSIs.

Flores from HACU says her group’s award would still be “far from fair” but more equitable for the institutions.

It is “in the best interest of the nation” to invest more in institutions serving Hispanics, he said. They “not only educate 5.3 million students and two-thirds of the 3.6 million Hispanics in college, but they also educate more than twice as many African Americans as all of the HBCUs put together.”

The HACU, although in favor of the IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act, could be a barrier for HBCU groups looking for the right formula to distribute money to institutions serving minorities, which vary widely by size. and institutional wealth.

The California State University system, which has 21 of the 23 campuses designated as HSI, has a deferred maintenance backlog of approximately $ 4 billion and requirements are increasing by approximately $ 307 million per year, as expected over the next 10 years, Soraya Coley, president of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, told lawmakers and their staff at an HSI briefing. La Verne University, a designated HSI private college, has estimated $ 70 million over the next 10 years for facility maintenance.

Mike Flores, district chancellor of Alamo Colleges, urged lawmakers at the briefing to establish an HSI capital funding program with an appropriation level of $ 10 billion to meet urgent infrastructure needs.

The Flores Community College District, made up of five campuses, is home to the only college in the country, St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, designated as both HBCU and HSI. He told lawmakers that because the HBCUs received more money than other universities and colleges in Covid relief programs, he saw with his own eyes at St. Philip’s College how the money was being used to invest. also in on-campus technology enhancements for their cyber, automotive and health programs. But the other four HSIs had to use their money for student aid, “because of the smaller amounts they received, unlike the HBCU funds.”

“I don’t want the accent to be seen as HSI compared to other institutions serving minorities,” he said. “We want to emphasize… that each cohort of HSI colleges and universities receives a fair share of funding commensurate with the number of institutions they represent or the number of students we enroll. “



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