Education's Paige offers preview of new budget
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When President Bush releases his federal budget next week, there will be a slight increase in funds to help strengthen the nation's tribal colleges, Secretary of Education Rod Paige said.

In fiscal year 2004, the Department of Education plans to award $19 million in planning and development grants to eligible institutions. The amount is 5 percent, or about $1 million, above current levels, and is part of the Bush administration's tribal college initiative, Paige said yesterday.

"By taking this action, the administration reaffirms the special relationship of the federal government to American Indians and their sovereign tribal nations, and we renew our commitment to educational excellence for American Indian students," Paige said.

Spread across a dozen states, the nation's 34 tribal college serve a diverse Indian and non-Indian population. With more than 30,000 full-time students, they offer two-year, four-year and, in some cases, master's programs in a wide array of subjects.

The grants, part of the Tribal Colleges and Universities program, seek to help the institutions become more self-sufficient by improving academics, management and stability. The one-year planning and five-year development grants can be used for a variety of purposes, from student services to faculty development.

Despite the proposed increase, tribal colleges are woefully underfunded. Since they don't charge tuition, they rely on the federal government and some student fees to stay afloat.

Bush has elevated the status of tribal colleges and created a 14-member White House board of advisers but the attention hasn't translated into a substantial increase in resources. In some cases, he has sought to cut post-secondary programs altogether, prompting criticism from Republicans and Democrats.

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), who sits on the Appropriations and Indian Affairs committees, has helped to restore and raise funding. "So many American Indian students benefit from the educational and job training opportunities available at tribal colleges and universities," he said last November.

Last week, the Senate passed a budget bill that funds tribal college grant program at $23 million, $5 million more than what Bush requested. The House version doesn't include the increase, so the difference will be worked out in a joint conference committee.

Bush will release his budget request for fiscal year 2004 on Monday.

Relevant Documents:
Department of Education Budget Comparision | Executive Order No. 13021: Tribal Colleges and Universities | Appointments to White House Board of Advisors on Tribal Colleges and Universities

Relevant Links:
White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities -
Department of Education -

Related Stories:
Tribal colleges succeed despite limitations (01/13)
Tribal-federal effort targets Indian education (11/15)
Bush signs tribal college policy (07/08)

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