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May 28, 2010 4:11 PM Priorities

By Daniel Luzer

Some college administrators worry that the Obama administration’s education proposals may ultimately leave minority schools with less money, or might make it a lot harder for these institutions to obtain federal money. According to an article by Charles Dervarics in Diverse Issues in Higher Education:

An Obama administration plan to consolidate dozens of education, science and community-development programs of interest to communities of color, including minority-serving institutions, continues to draw concerns from the president’s allies and adversaries alike.
At issue, will consolidation—and increased competition for federal dollars—negate minority participation in such programs or otherwise leave communities, institutions and students of color behind?

Currently a lot of the federal money goes to minority-serving colleges directly. The money is targeted to the institutions. Proposed changes would take National Science Foundation programs for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and tribal colleges and combine them all together. Since 1998 the NSF has provided HBCUs alone with some $214.5 million.The new program would fund partnerships between minority serving institutions and other colleges. According to the article:

But MSI leaders have concerns, noting that the realignment would force HBCUs to compete with HSIs and tribal colleges for limited funding—all while trying to attract interest from majority-White institutions for partnerships.

So they wouldn’t get the cash automatically; they’d have to compete for it. That might be a good thing.

At the same time some administrators worried about losing NSF money, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report about how some minority-serving colleges have been spending their federal funds.

The GAO randomly selected seven minority-serving colleges that benefit from federal money meant to help minority students attend and graduate from college. The seven schools got some $1.9 in the year the GAO studied. It doesn’t look pretty. According to an article by Eric Kelderman in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

In reviewing how the colleges spent their grants, however, the GAO found that nearly $143,000 was used for questionable purposes, such as $2,127 that Wiley College, in Texas, used to pay late fees; $4,800 that Riverside Community College, in California, spent on T-shirts for students; and $27,530 that the University of the Sacred Heart, in Puerto Rico, used to prepay subscription and contract services that would be delivered after the grant expired.

Read the GAO report here. Read about the administration’s proposal to change the distribution of NSF grants here.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer