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Member Advisory - December 20, 2007

Legislative Update for 2007

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 chairman George Miller, ranking member Howard McKeon, chairman Edward Kennedy, 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 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 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.

For decades, the U.S. has led the world in research leading to discoveries of medicines to eradicate some of the globe's fatal diseases, innovations to improve our public health, technologies to protect our environment and create new energy sources, and much more. 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.

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. The legislation is expected to go to the House floor for action in mid-January of 2008. The Senate passed an HEA reauthorization bill (S.1642) on July 24, 2007 with a unanimous vote of 95-0; this legislation also included "Next Generation HSI" graduate education legislation.

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. HACU is pleased to report that both the Senate and House HEA bills currently include language to strengthen undergraduate and graduate education for Hispanic-Serving Institutions. 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 with overwhelming bipartisan support 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, 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.

We look forward to your support in advocating for the passage of the Higher Education Act of 1965 when it goes to the House floor for action in mid-January of 2008.

Reauthorization of the Farm Bill

This year, HACU's unyielding legislative advocacy 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 (chairman Tom Harkin, ranking member Saxby Chambliss, chairman 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 (HSACU) 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 Hispanic-Serving Agricultural Colleges and Universities in agriculture, human nutrition, food science, bioenergy, and environmental science;
  • Authorizes an institutional capacity-building grant program to assist Hispanic-Serving Agricultural Colleges and Universities;
  • 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 January 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.

Title V 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. HACU will urge Congress to increase Title V funding beyond $100 million in FY 2009.

Looking Forward to 2008

As the first session of the 110th Congress comes to a close, HACU wishes to thank every one of its members for the great advocacy we achieved this year. Without the close collaboration of our membership, these accomplishments would not have been possible. HACU would especially like to thank the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Conference for championing HSIs and legislation that advances Hispanic success in higher education.

HACU's government relations team in Washington, DC, looks forward to moving an ambitious legislative agenda in 2008. We will be counting on you to assist us in advocating for HSIs in major reauthorizations and key legislation including the Higher Education Act, the Farm Bill, NCLB, and Minority Health Disparities.

We look forward to seeing you at the 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.

Please contact HACU's Washington, DC, office at (202) 833-8361 for any additional information or assistance on legislation affecting Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

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