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.