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Beyond the News

Sequestering Minority Education

Government cuts to hit minority-serving institutions hardest
University Business, April 2013

As a result of March’s sequestration, colleges and universities are starting to figure out how to deal with government cuts from student loan funding and the trickle down of major cuts to agencies that support the bulk of institutional research and development. Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and historically black colleges and universities have even more to contend with than the average school with cuts from separate federal grant funding they rely on to operate.

The biggest blow to higher ed came in the area of research funding. The sequester includes $6.8 billion in cuts to the various agencies that support higher education research and development: the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, and the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Agriculture. The NIH and NSF are losing $1.6 billion and $400 million, respectively. Financial aid took a hit, too, with 8.2 percent cuts from the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Work-Study, and federal college access programs such as TRIO and GEAR UP. Minority-serving institutions will feel those cuts, plus more.

“That’s the tragedy of all of this,” says Antonio R. Flores, president and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities. “It doesn’t differentiate between those institutions and those students in greater need and those that may have less of a need. It treats them all equally, and, of course, they are not all on an equal playing field.

Hispanic-serving institutions are expected to lose about 5 percent in discretionary Title V funding dedicated to developing such institutions. And fewer student aid dollars will hurt Hispanic and other minority-serving institutions hardest, as the majority of their students receive some kind of aid. “Given that [Hispanic-serving institutions] are only given 66 cents to the rest of higher education institutions in the country’s dollar-per-student every year, those cuts are even more draconian,” Flores says. “It will affect their ability to recruit, support, and graduate students who are historically underrepresented in higher education.”

Little Big Horn College (Mont.), a tribal college, is already discussing cutting back to four-day work weeks during the summer, furloughing about half of its 74 employees for two weeks, and eliminating at least six positions to help soften the blow of cuts in grant funding, shares President David Yarlott. He has issued an order to cut back on or postpone purchasing supplies and equipment and may do away with the college’s summer session.

About a third of the Little Big Horn’s operating funds come from Title I grants through the Bureau of Indian Education. The college receives $5,000 to $6,000 for each of its 400 students (5 percent of its students are not Native American). Nationwide, the sequestration will cut $725 million from Title I.

Historically black colleges and universities will be impacted by a 5 percent reduction in Title III funds. The schools rely on Title III to fund student services, faculty and staff development, facilities improvements, and recruitment efforts.