Outlines the specific proposals in the current version of the proposed 2008 Higher Education Act renewal (orig. passed 1968, last renewed in 1998).
There are two different versions of the bill, one in the US House of Representatives, and one in the US Senate.
The Senate bill was passed in that chamber in 2007 and proposes an annual grant of 250 million dollars (US) for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for technology development, to be administrated by the US Department of Education. The second version of the bill, currently in session at in the House of Representatives, also proposes an annual stipend of 250 million dollars (US), but requests that the administrative duties be taken care of by the US Department of Commerce. Negotiations are ongoing between the two chambers to decide this sticking point, although members of both chambers are optimistic that a compromise can be achieved.
In addition to providing funding specifically aimed at technological improvement, the House bill provides additional funding for overall infrastructural investment, through the HBCU Capital Financing Program. This program, which offers governmental loans to the administrations of HBCUs, is instrumental in developing the overall resources of these universities, as these schools often struggle to develop their endowments and have smaller yields from their capital campaigns. The House bill proposes increasing the annual funding of the CFP from 375 million dollars (US) to 1.1 billion dollars (US).
Additional proposals in the House bill include an increase in the general federal HBCU undergraduate and graduate funding ceiling, which determines the limit that the government may allocate to these programs (an appropriations process determines the actual funds provided). Proponents of these two additional attachments point to the fact that the Bush administration has signaled that they will cut the net funding for HBCUs in the 2009 budget. These attachments are designed to block the administration from implementing that plan.
The bill is not exclusively aimed at HBCUs. Some parts, in fact, are aimed specifically at monitoring the activities of particularly affluent schools. Some points already agreed upon by both chambers in regards to this include an annual report from all US accredited universities in regards to their endowments, and in regards to what measures they are taking to reduce the cost of tuition and other fees to their student bodies. An earlier version of the bill would have required universities to spend at least five (5) percent of their endowments, per annum, towards alleviating the burden of costs to their students, but this was removed after strenuous objection from several major universities.
In addition, the bill requires any university that raises the price of its tuition to provide a detailed report to the Department of Education providing the details and need for such an increase. It is the hope, realistic or not, of the Congress at large that this will help dissuade universities from implementing unneccesary tuition hikes upon their students.
This article is relevant to my paper in that it outlines one specific approach towards solving the digital divide between HBCUs and their white counterparts. While the proposed changes to the bill do not create a permanent solution to lessen the disparity between these institutions (for instance, it does not contain plans to create a self-generating stream of revenue for these colleges and universities), it does provide a much needed injection of funds into the HBCU community, and could potentially provide the seed money to jump-start more long-term programs.
Report from the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), prepared for the US Department of Commerce. This study is, quite possibly, the largest and most comprehensive study to date on the use of technology at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). It is a clearinghouse of irrefutable statistics that demonstrate the digital divide between HBCUs and their white counterparts. An HBCU is dfined by the NAFEO as "[a] post-secondary institution founded prior to the the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with the primary objective of educatiing blacks." This differs from the US Government definition, as found within the Higher Education Act of 1965. It is notable that the NAFEO study claims 118 HBCUs by this definition (as opposed to the estimated 80 schools that fall under the US Gov't definition).
80 HBCUs participated in the NAFEO study. All demonstrated at least some use of computers on their campus, but, it should be noted, for many schools, this was restricted to only institutionally-owned computers, found in public, time-restricted spaces (library, dorm lounge, etc.). 60 of the responding schools reported the lowest possible response to the survey in terms of student technology ownership, that of "less than 25%" of their students owning a personal computer. This means that 75%of students at these HBCUs only had access to public computers. Even at the remaining 20 schools, none reported higher than 49% of their students owning a computer.
50% of the dorms at HBCUs had some connection to the Internet; however, more than 50% of these were institutionally-owned computers, found in a public area, such as a lobby or lounge computer -- not a situation designed for studying. Furthermore, even when an internet connection was available, it was not particularly rapid -- 88% of responding schools stated that they used T-1 speed lines, or lower for internet connection. In comparison, the 2000 United States Census demonstrates that only 38% of black college students (at any and all schools of US-based schools of higher education) have a home computer, as opposed to 70% of white students. Of those 38%, only 40% have internet access. From a comparison of this data, it is clear that the technology gap between white students and black students overall deepens if those black students attend a HBCU.
(NOTE: For general use, educationally related or not, the disparity between white and black internet users is shocking; the Census shows that only 6% of the estimated 58 million internet users are black.)
This is relevant to my paper in that it shows a demonstrable gap between the computing resources available to students at HBCUs and those available to students at traditionally white institutions. This gap restricts access to information, as well as the means by which access is gained (public vs. private, etc.). This data is from 2000 -- eight years ago. As a result, I am a little wary of it. However, other studies as recent at 2006 continue to cite these statistics, so I trust that the greater academic community at large finds them to still be relevant (or, at the least, that the disparity demonstrated still remains in place).