Laws & Guidance HIGHER EDUCATION
Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965
Dr. Joe Simmons, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Lincoln University On Behalf of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education
Archived Information



Testimony of the
National Association for Equal Opportunity
In Higher Education (NAFEO)
07 March 2003

Introductory Remarks

Good afternoon to the distinguished panel and to my colleagues in the higher education community. I am Dr. Joe L. Simmons, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost of Lincoln University, an historically Black institution and a member of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO).

First, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and discuss our ideas and proposals for amending the Higher Education Act (HEA). NAFEO and Lincoln University look forward to working with the Department of Education (ED) to improve the quality of postsecondary education and expand access to African Americans and other minority students. As a representative of Lincoln University and NAFEO, I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this discussion, which is a part a larger process that I hope will help to provide useful insight as you work to formulate policies for improving our institutions and our ability to better serve the interest of our students and the nation.

Background

NAFEO serves as the national umbrella organization for a combined membership of 118 Historically and Predominately Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Their mission is to champion the interests of our member institutions through the executive, legislative and judicial branches of federal and state government, and articulate the need for a system of higher education where race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and previous educational attainment levels are not determinants of either the quality or quantity of higher education. The organization takes lead responsibility for the development and dissemination of public policies, programmatic efforts, and strategic and educational materials that: (1) enhance the role of HBCUs, generally, and (2) promote African American student enrollment and attainment, specifically.

NAFEO is comprised of institutions of higher education that represent a broad spectrum of interests, including public and private, large and small, urban and rural, liberal arts, agricultural, and research. Of the institutions that hold membership in NAFEO, 46 percent are public and 54 percent are private. NAFEO 's membership is comprised of two-year and four-year institutions, as well as schools that offer advanced and professional degrees. They are situated in every quarter of the country, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands.

During the time of Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education and the end of de jure segregation in public schools-but not the end of racially exclusive "whites only" systems of higher education in the South or nearly all-white systems of higher education in the North-HBCUs were producing more than 90 percent of all Black baccalaureates and more than 90 percent of all Black doctors, lawyers, and PhDs. Now, HBCUs enroll the largest concentration of both the well- and ill-prepared African American students that are the products of deeply flawed public schools and from families that earn an average of two-thirds of what their white counterparts earn. While HBCUs enroll approximately 16 percent of all African American undergraduate students, these institutions graduate about 30 percent of all African Americans who complete their baccalaureate degrees annually. HBCUs are the largest producers of African American teachers and baccalaureates in science and technology. Additionally, a higher percentage of Black PhDs from HBCUs (42 percent each year) complete their degrees than those from non-HBCUs. We are now building our PhD programs to address the undersupply of African Americans in the science and technology fields and expanding our capacities to offer more professional degree programs.

Enrollment and graduation rates in our institutions are most sensitive to even the slightest shifts in state and federal policies affecting college admission, retention, and completion. Hence, for the last 40 years, HBCUs have served as the barometer that signals the earliest and most reliable indicators of whether new educational policies instituted by federal, state, or private sector policy makers will advance or retard the movement toward equality of educational opportunity.

NAFEO's HEA Reauthorization Priorities

In view of our mission and commitment, NAFEO proposes strengthening some existing programs, as well as proposing some new and innovative initiatives. NAFEO is committed to pursuing policies and resources necessary to enhance and enlarge the capacities of our institutions to continue to be trailblazers and standard bearers for equal opportunity and to continue to help the nation resolve problems associated with educational inequality and access to higher education.

Title II: Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants

NAFEO proposes the creation of Collaborative Centers of Excellence on HBCU campuses through which Black colleges with exemplary teacher education programs can assist other institutions. The Center will provide much needed resources, such as professional development (and training), curriculum assessment, identification and replication of best practices for teacher preparation and training, and the development of research on issues impacting minority education.

While NAFEO supports the notion that teacher-training candidates should pass certification exams, undue reliance on a single reporting criteria to determine the quality of an institution's overall teacher education programs and the lack of uniformity in the regulatory process resulting from the ability of each state to establish its own pass rate are quite problematic and not likely to achieve the results intended. Inconsistencies as to what constitutes a passing score undermine the effectiveness of the policy. The varied benchmarks of success established state-by-state will likely produce inequitable results.

Under-resourced institutions, such as HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) that produce large numbers of minority teachers who disproportionately serve in high-need areas, should be enhanced verses penalized. The goal should be to increase the numbers of qualified minority teachers to serve as role models for the ever-increasing minority student population. Moreover, these teacher preparation programs should be fairly assessed and provided sufficient resources to ensure that their students will have the tools they need to pass the certification exam(s).

Title III: Institutional Aid

As you are aware, Title III was enacted to provide financial assistance to strengthen institutions that serve high percentages of low-income and minority students. During the 1992 HEA amendment process, the minority setaside component was removed from Title III, Part A. As a result, with the exception of predominately Black colleges, all the other affected groups now have separate set-asides. Currently, two- and four-year predominately Black colleges are participating at minimal levels, due in large part to the exceptionally large field of competition coupled with slow program growth.

In order to remedy this situation, NAFEO proposes a setaside for approximately 38 two-year and 17 four-year predominately Black institutions (those with a preponderance of Black student enrollment) in an effort to increase the number of Black baccalaureate, professional, and doctoral degree holders. Critical to this plan of providing a seamless pathway through the higher education pipeline is the utilization of articulation agreements beginning with urban high schools and extending through each level of postsecondary education, including two-year associates degree and four-year bachelors degree granting Title IIIB institutions. Likewise, articulation relationships will be encouraged between these four-year institutions and other Title IIIB institutions that offer graduate/professional degrees. These organic articulation relationships will increase persistence by facilitating a seamless pathway from high school and extending through each level of higher education.

The creation of Title III, Part B was an effort to overcome discriminatory acts by the federal government in the allocation of educational resources and enhance the capacities of HBCUs to make substantial contributions to higher education. This vital program provides much needed resources to support the federal goal of providing equal educational opportunity.

In an effort to improve Title III, Part B, Section 323, NAFEO proposes several changes including reducing the institutional match for endowment building from a dollar-for-dollar match to a three (federal)- to-one (institutional) dollar match, with a waiver for exceptional need. This will help bridge the endowment gap between HBCUs their majority counterparts, and free up additional resources address various student and institutional needs. NAFEO also proposes to explicitly expand the uses of funds to allow institutions to use up to two percent of its Title IIIB grants to secure technical assistance services. This provision would go a long way to enhance the fiscal stability, efficiency, and effectiveness of our institutions.

In light of the tremendous under representation of African Americans participating in higher education at the graduate, professional and doctoral levels, NAFEO recommends several changes to Title III, Part B, Section 326 to stimulate more growth in this critical area. To further that end, NAFEO proposes adding the schools that are currently eligible for participation in Section 326; raising minimum no-match grant amount from $1 million to $1.5 million; adding a use of funds for development of new graduate programs; creating a new graduate section to encourage the expansion of graduate education at institutions that are not currently participating in Section 326 to expand their masters level programs to the doctoral level; and creating a new fellowship program for students attending Section 326 institutions which will accelerate production by enhancing institutional competitiveness in the recruitment and retention of graduate students.

Title IV: Student Aid

NAFEO institutions serve disproportionate numbers of low-income students and therefore necessarily are concerned about the diminution of grant aid over the years. As we are all aware, grant programs have not kept up with the cost of postsecondary education, thereby making loans the primary source for financing education. This situation exacerbates our concerns, because it results in tremendous loan repayment burdens for the students who persist as well as those who do not. The federal interest in breaking cycles of poverty is compelling. However, the diminishing impact of grant aid, coupled with burdensome loan burdens, provide serious deterrents for poor students to attempt the pursuit of a college degree---not to mention the burdensome impact of student loan defaults on our institutions, which face severe sanctions that threaten their continued participation in the student aid programs.

NAFEO supports many of the bold and sensitive policy changes proffered by the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators (NASFA) and believes that the approach they have adopted will enhance access to college and encourage more minority students from low-income families to pursue college degrees. Therefore, we enthusiastically endorse strengthening the Pell Grant by making it an entitlement; increasing the minimum award to $1,000, doubling the maximum grant from $4,000 to $8,000 over the next five years, and frontloading the grant in the first two years to reduce reliance on loans to encourage persistence and increase graduation rates. Additional student aid recommendations are included in the attached Summary of NAFEO's Higher Education Act Reauthorization Priorities and Recommendations document.

Title VI: International Education Programs

Undoubtedly, the events of September 11, 2001, highlighted the critical need to involve people of color in the enhancement of our global outreach and national security efforts. With sufficient investment, Black colleges would be tremendous resources to our nation with respect to global understanding, strengthening diplomacy efforts, and protecting the homeland. Therefore, NAFEO recommends the creation of a new competitive grant program to establish ten area studies centers at MSIs (consisting of HBCUs, Hispanic-serving institutions, and Tribally-controlled colleges). Permissible uses of funds would support the creation of cultural centers, student (graduate and undergraduate) and faculty exchanges, area studies programs, foreign language programs and other endeavors that would support the nation's foreign policy and national security priorities.

Title VII: Graduate and Postsecondary Improvement Programs

Current Title VII programs provide fellowships to minority students with high abilities and demonstrated financial need. However, these programs alone do not adequately address the severe underrepresentation of African Americans at the graduate degree level. Given the fact that HBCUs are the most successful sector in the higher education system in educating African Americans with graduate/professional and doctoral degrees, we are now seeking to build our PhD programs to address the undersupply of African Americans in the science and technology fields and expand our capacities to offer more professional degree programs. Therefore, NAFEO proposes the creation of a new program in Title IIIB, Section 326 to enhance and expand successful graduate programs and increase enrollments at HBCUs and build upon the their successes at the undergraduate level.

Conclusion

In closing, I thank you again for the opportunity to participate in this discussion and provide insights and recommendations that NAFEO and Lincoln University believe will improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and fairness of our nation's system of higher education.

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Last Modified: 02/05/2009