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Advocacy / Legislative Issues - Bills 

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FOR 2008
February 13, 2008

The Second Session of the 110th Congress
As the second session of the 110th Congress begins its work, HACU looks forward to moving an ambitious legislative agenda in 2008 by working in close collaboration with our membership, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Conference and other HSI champions in the United States Congress to advance Hispanic success in higher education.

HACU Celebrates Landmark Investments in Hispanic-Serving Institutions
The first session of the 110th Congress brought historic investments to Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). HACU and its membership worked in close cooperation with distinguished members of the House and Senate to achieve key provisions in major reauthorization bills and in the higher education budget reconciliation legislation. "It has been a great year for Hispanic-Serving Institutions," said Dr. Antonio Flores, President and CEO of HACU. "The 110th Congress made landmark investments in Hispanic-Serving Institutions, particularly in the STEM areas, where Hispanics and other minorities are grossly under-represented."

I. Legislation Adopted by the 110th Congress and Signed by the President

College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007
HACU and its membership worked with members of Congress to advocate for the passage of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, H.R. 2669. HACU recognizes the extraordinary leadership of House committee chair George Miller and ranking member Howard McKeon, Senate committee chair Edward Kennedy and ranking member Michael Enzi, subcommittee chairman Rubén Hinojosa and the distinguished members of the House Education and Labor Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee for investing in HSIs as part the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007.

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 was signed into law on September 27, 2007. The law provides a total of $200 million in mandatory funding for Hispanic-Serving Institutions for FY 2008 and FY 2009 to increase the number of Hispanic and other low-income students attaining degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), and to develop model transfer and articulation agreements between 2-year Hispanic-Serving Institutions and 4-year institutions in such fields. The law also makes college more affordable for low-income students by increasing funding for Pell Grants over the next five years by $11.4 billion. H.R. 2669 increases the maximum Pell award from $4,310 in 2007 to $5,400 in 2012.

The U.S. Department of Education will be announcing the competition and informational workshops for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA) funding very soon. For additional information, please visit www.ed.gov/hsi or contact the program officer at the U.S. States Department of Education:

Nalini Lamba-Nieves
Program Officer
Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program
1990 K Street, NW,  Room 6043
Washington, DC  20006-8513
Phone:  (202) 502- 7562
Fax:  (202) 502-7861
E-mail:  nalini.lamba-nieves@ed.gov

The America COMPETES Act
HACU and its membership had two victories in the America COMPETES Act. The "America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act," H.R. 2272, was signed into law on August 9, 2007. The legislation authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a new grants program to enhance the quality of undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics education (STEM) at HSIs to increase the graduation rates of students pursuing associate or baccalaureate degrees in STEM. Based on HACU's recommendation, the House Science and Technology Committee, chaired by Representative Brian Baird, also included a provision that requests that the National Academy of Sciences study the barriers that preclude minorities from pursuing STEM fields and address the role of MSIs in diversifying America's STEM workforce and how that role can be supported and strengthened.

Representatives Gerald McNerney, Gabrielle Giffords, and Joseph Crowley were the major sponsors of the amendment that directs the NSF to establish a competitive grants program for HSIs at the National Science Foundation. The amendment was adopted with strong bipartisan support on May 2, 2007.

Without greater involvement of NSF in training new STEM professionals, especially Hispanics and other minorities, the nation will cease being the world's leader in scientific and technological advancements.
HACU looks forward to ensuring that the competitive grants program for HSIs is implemented and funded appropriately for FY 2009.

II. Pending Legislation Affecting Hispanic-Serving Institutions

Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965
HACU is pleased to report that the House Education and Labor Committee voted unanimously to approve the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007, H.R. 4137, on November 15, 2007. HACU and its membership have worked tirelessly since the 108th Congress to advocate for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). The Senate passed an HEA reauthorization bill (S.1642) on July 24, 2007 with a unanimous vote of 95-0; this legislation also included the "Next Generation HSI" graduate education legislation.  H.R. 4137 passed the House floor on February 7, 2008 by a vote of 354-58 and is currently in conference committee. 
 
The House HEA bill addresses the soaring cost of college, enhances college readiness and support programs such as GEAR-UP, TRIO, and HEP-CAMP, eliminates obstacles to college access, and includes the following key provisions for HSIs:

HSI Undergraduate and Graduate Education.  Both the Senate and House HEA bills currently include language to strengthen undergraduate and graduate education for HSIs. Title V, Part A: Increasing the authorization level to $175 million will continue to enhance the capacity of undergraduate education at HSIs. Title V, Part B: Authorizing $125 million to establish a graduate education component to Title V will enhance the capacity of HSIs to offer high quality graduate education programs to thousands of Hispanics and other minority students.

Minority-Serving Institution (MSI) Digital and Wireless Technology Opportunity Program.  HACU and its membership have worked closely with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) since the 108th Congress to advocate for a Minority-Serving Institution Digital and Wireless Technology Opportunity Program. This legislation was folded into the HEA bill after passing in the House of Representatives on September 4, 2007 by a vote of 331-59. This program will assist MSIs in acquiring, and augmenting their use of, digital and wireless networking technologies and in improving their digital and wireless networking technology infrastructure to enhance the quality of research and instruction and the overall delivery of educational services at MSIs.

Centers of Excellence for Minority-Serving Institutions.  Establishing Centers of Excellence to expand teacher education programs at HSIs and other MSIs will ensure that current and future teachers are highly qualified and close student achievement gaps in high-poverty schools. Currently, Hispanics comprise one of every five students in K-12 public education in the United States, but less than 5 percent of K-12 teachers.

Reauthorization of the Farm Bill
This year, HACU's unyielding legislative advocacy has led to new provisions in the Farm Bill. HACU and its membership worked in close collaboration with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (particularly Representatives Joe Baca, John Salazar, Dennis Cardoza and Henry Cuellar), the Congressional Hispanic Conference, and the leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees (Senate chair Tom Harkin and ranking member Saxby Chambliss, House chair Collin Peterson and ranking member Bob Goodlatte) for including new provisions for Hispanic-Serving Institutions in the Farm Bill. These recommendations came directly from the policy document, "HACU Public Policy Priorities for the Farm Bill Reauthorization," a report that was produced with feedback from surveys and focus groups held in various parts of the country with HACU membership.

The House-passed Farm Bill, H.R. 2419, included a new designation for HSIs that offer degrees in agriculture and related fields. The bill authorizes new programs for Hispanic-Serving Agricultural Colleges and Universities (HSACUs) and HSIs:

  • Establishes an endowment fund for Hispanic-Serving Agricultural Colleges and Universities;
  • Authorizes a competitive grants program to fund basic and applied research at HSACUs in agriculture, human nutrition, food science, bioenergy, and environmental science;
  • Authorizes an institutional capacity-building grant program to assist HSACUs;
  • Provides HSACUs access to international agricultural research, extension, and education programs to help develop a sustainable global agriculture system through collaborative research with other countries on U.S. agricultural competitiveness;
  • Authorizes the Secretary to establish an undergraduate scholarship program to assist Hispanic-Serving Institutions in the retention, recruitment, and training of Hispanics and other under-represented groups in forestry and related fields;
  • Expands research extension capabilities for Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

The Senate-passed bill increases the authorization level for the HSI Title VII grants to $40 million and includes the House-passed provisions with the exception of the forestry program for HSIs. We are optimistic that the forestry program will be included during conference and be part of the final legislation sent to the president. The Farm Bill is expected to go to conference in February with possible completion scheduled by the end of the month. HACU thanks its membership for all of the recommendations and feedback that it provided to move these issues forward. 

We will ask our membership to urge the president to sign the Farm Bill if it goes to his desk for signature in the coming weeks.

III. Title V and Title VII Appropriations for FY 2008

In spite of this year's many successes, due to the war in Iraq, Congress cut almost two percent from domestic programs in the Labor Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill. As a result, HSIs received a slight reduction, $93.2 million, for Title V HEA funding in FY 2008 compared to $94.9 million in FY 2007. The appropriation for the Title VII, HSI-USDA grants was $6 million for FY 2008. HACU will urge Congress to increase HEA Title V and USDA Title VII funding in FY 2009. 

IV. New Legislation on Minority Health Disparities:

H.R. 3014, the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2007
Representative Hilda Solis introduced H.R. 3014, the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2007 on July 12, 2007 in close collaboration with the Health Chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Conference, and the Congressional Asian and Pacific American Caucus.   This legislation was developed to eliminate the persistent health disparities that leave millions of Americans in poorer health and more likely to die prematurely during their most productive life years.  Despite the dramatic achievements in health and healthcare over the past century, the health of racial and ethnic minority Americans and those who live in rural communities continues to lag behind that of other Americans. 

HACU worked closely with Rep. Solis’s office to include several provisions for Minority-Serving Institutions. This legislation which has 97 cosponsors, seeks to bolster efforts to ensure culturally and linguistically appropriate health care and remove language and cultural barriers to healthcare; reduce disparities in urban and rural populations; improve workforce diversity; strengthen and coordinate data collection; expand access to health information technology; ensure accountability and improve health care services.  Hispanic-Serving Institutions would greatly benefit from this bill.

H.R. 3333 & S. 1576, Minority Health Improvement and Health Disparity Elimination Act 
HACU is working closely with the staffs of Senator Kennedy and Rep. Jesse Jackson to include provisions for HSIs in S. 1576 and H.R. 3333, the House companion bill.

The legislation will develop an Internet Clearinghouse within the Office of Minority Health and provide for programs of excellence in health professions education for underrepresented minorities by establishing Hispanic, African-American and Native American Centers of Excellence.  The bill will support demonstration projects designed to improve the health and health care of racial and ethnic minority groups through improved access to health care, patient navigators, primary prevention activities, health promotion and disease prevention activities, and health literacy education and services. The bill also provides for research to improve the health of racial and ethnic minority groups.  S. 1576 is expected to be marked up by the Senate HELP Committee in February.

HACU urges its membership to support both minority health disparities bills when they are considered for committee mark-up and floor action.

V. HACU National Capitol Forum in 2008

Given the many legislative issues facing HSIs and the Hispanic community in this presidential election, we strongly urge you to attend HACU's 13th Annual National Capitol Forum on Hispanic Higher Education April 13-15, 2008, in Washington, DC, where together we can advocate for greater resources for Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

HACU's government relations team in Washington, DC, is eager to work with you to support legislation that benefits HSIs.  Please contact HACU's Washington, DC, office at (202) 833-8361 for additional information or assistance on legislation affecting Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

HACU Member Advisories are a service of the
Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.