How the Bush Administration has helped Black Colleges

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In the last year, we have laid a solid foundation and developed new fiscal and educational programs to assist HBCUs. But we must keep our sense of urgency and commitment, because so much remains to be done. And, above all, we must remain united in our advocacy and partnership. I am mindful of the advice given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1955, spoken in trying times in Montgomery, Alabama. He reminded us, "In all of our actions we must stick together. Unity is the great need of the hour, and if we are united we can get many of the things that we not only desire but which we justly deserve."

I believe we are crafting powerful, dynamic, and steadfast support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).   The president has repeatedly expressed his strong commitment to HBCUs.  He was proud to sign the executive order establishing a federal program to strengthen the capacity of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 
 
In the new 2005 budget, the president has set federal spending at $418.8 million for Aid for Institutional Development Programs, an increase of $18.8 million over 2004.  This funding is going to institutions with high proportions of minority students, including HBCUs and Historically Black Graduate Institutions.  The funding includes $240.5 million for HBCUs and $58.5 million for HBGIs.   Four years ago, the president made a promise to increase funding for Institutional Development Programs by 30 percent during his administration, and he has done that with the new budget.
 
Overall, student financial aid would expand to more than $73 billion, excluding the consolidation of student loans.  This is an increase of more than $4 billion or 6 percent over the 2004 level.  The number of recipients of grant, loan, and work-study assistance would grow by 426,000, to 10 million students and parents. The budget also includes more than $832 million for the federal TRIO Programs and more than $298 million for GEAR-UP to provide educational outreach and support services to help almost two million disadvantaged students enter and complete college. Recently, the Department of Education awarded a $1 million grant to the United Negro College Fund Special Programs, Hampton University and NAFEO.  Under this grant, these institutions will:
 

• develop a collaborative effort to provide professional development and training for senior executives and governing board members;
• examine institutional operations to help avoid or lessen accrediting concerns and to meet regulatory requirements; and
• provide technical assistance in the areas of financial management, planning, evaluation, and professional development. 
 
Such training is important for long-term fiscal responsibility and governance.  Coupled with the increased levels of fiscal support in the budget, a foundation has been laid for greater fiscal support and closer partnership
 
But the future is exciting for other reasons, too.  The quality of education that students are receiving in grades K-12 is improving, which means that incoming students will be better prepared for college.  The No Child Left Behind Act has made a profound difference already.  Every state has an accountability plan in place.  There has been considerable effort to place highly qualified teachers in every classroom. Education is now more inclusive, successful, and fair.   The president and the Congress deserve much credit for holding the line against those who want to return to the old ways, which means silencing, ignoring, disrespecting, and disregarding our African American, Hispanic, low-income, special-needs, and English-learning students. 
 
We already see considerable evidence that the law is working. In the most recent results on the Nation's Report Card, or NAEP, the mathematics scores for fourth- and eighth-graders rose significantly across the board.  Importantly, African American, Hispanic American, and low-income students accounted for some of the most significant improvements.  As a result, the achievement gap is closing.  Further evidence comes from a recent report by the Council of the Great City Schools, which reviewed test scores from 61 urban school districts in 37 states.  Students in the largest urban public school systems showed significant improvement in reading and math in the first year under No Child Left Behind.  The president's new initiatives, announced at the beginning of the month, will build on our progress.  The proposals will continue the culture of achievement and accountability. 
 
Simply put, we need your schools to help produce even more teachers of color.  Our HBCUs have become premier institutions for urban studies.  You have institutional linkages to our minority and low-income communities.  These distinctive relationships benefit the entire country.  And perhaps no benefit has more lasting influence than your graduates themselves, especially those who enter the teaching profession.  A recent report indicated only 10 percent of our nation's three million teachers are from minority communities.  Only 6 percent are African American.  Just 21 percent are men.  This is unacceptable in a nation where more than 40 percent of students are from minority communities. 
 
Because HBCUs are the primary source for African American teachers, we need your help.  Students need good teachers, period.  They also need good teachers who have similar life experiences, who understand their needs, who will not leave them behind.  It is vital that this country produce more African American, Latino American, Native American, and Asian American teachers. 
 
 In the last year, we have laid a solid foundation and developed new fiscal and educational programs to assist HBCUs.   But we must keep our sense of urgency and commitment, because so much remains to be done.  And, above all, we must remain united in our advocacy and partnership.  I am mindful of the advice given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1955, spoken in trying times in Montgomery, Alabama.  He reminded us, "In all of our actions we must stick together.  Unity is the great need of the hour, and if we are united we can get many of the things that we not only desire but which we justly deserve."

Mr. Paige is the U.S. Education Secretary

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