President George W. Bush’s 2009 education budget proposal has many black educators concerned about the effect of federal cuts on historically black colleges and universities. Lezli Baskerville, president and CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, says Bush’s budget proposal essentially nullifies an increase in funding that was promised to HBCUs by the 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act.
“For the past several years, the White House has proposed level funding of $238 million for HBCUs under the core program,” says Edith L. Bartley, the United Negro College Fund’s director of government affairs. “Under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, Congress provided an additional $170 million in mandatory funding [$85 million per year over 2008 and 2009]. The president’s budget has proposed that the $85 million for fiscal year ’09 be counted toward the $238 million the White House proposes Congress appropriate for HBCUs next year. The president’s proposed budget cuts are inconsistent with the federal policy and commitment to support HBCUs, [which] are more vulnerable and at a significant disadvantage going into fiscal year 2010.”
Bartley says Congress intended for CCRAA funds to complement any regularly appropriated funds for HBCUs, and that the cuts will hurt HBCUs that are strapped, such as Fisk University, which recently scrapped its NCAA athletics program because of a lack of funding.
“Last year, the Democratic Congress provided an historic increase in funding for historically black colleges and universities — an investment that these schools urgently needed after years of being severely underfunded at the hands of the Bush administration,” says Rachel Racusen, deputy communications director for the Committee on Education and Labor. “That’s why it’s so disappointing that the president’s budget ignores the needs of HBCUs by proposing to strip away important resources intended to help minority students go to college and succeed.”
White House officials contend that the cuts have had little effect on HBCUs and that funding will basically remain the same. “We have to make tough decisions with discretional funding, and our budget reflects that,” says Samara Yudof, press secretary for the Department of Education.