- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

A White House advisory board has recommended designating 10 percent of all federal money spent on higher education for historically black schools, which represent 3 percent of the nation's public colleges and universities.

Twenty of the 22 members of the President's Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) last week approved the final draft of the report. It calls the concept the "10 percent solution" and asks for its implementation during the Bush presidency.

The proposed funding increase will avail black students to more fields that are traditionally nonblack, said board Chairman Benjamin Franklin Payton, president of Tuskegee University.

"I am talking about the failure of this country to provide for the future of bright blacks," Mr. Payton said. "If you look at the data and see who is producing the black engineers or behavioral science, it is the HBCUs [historically black colleges and universities]."

The 10 percent solution is not a quota plan, he said, but a means to "level the playing field for those who have been underserved."

A public hearing on the advisory report will be held early next year before being sent to the president for his consideration.

"Hopefully, it will then be shared with the affected departments, who will then tell the [Office of Management and Budget] of its commitment," said one board member, who asked not to be identified.

Multiple agencies would be affected by the plan, including the departments of Agriculture and Interior as well as the Department of Education. The percentage of each agency's funds that go to black schools varies.

The report also said that the advisers "expect that all covered departments and agencies will take our recommendations into consideration in formulating their fiscal year 2004 budgets."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education, one of government's largest funding bodies for public universities, said it has a budget of $18.5 billion for higher education in fiscal 2002.

Currently, between 3 percent and 6 percent of that goes to historically black schools, where 14 percent of all black college students are enrolled.

President Bush has already promised to increase funding for the nation's 105 black colleges by 30 percent between 2001 and 2005, said one of the two board members who refused to sign off on the report.

"The 10 percent solution is not a practical one," said Harold Doley Jr., chairman of the New Orleans investment firm Doley Securities Inc.

Mr. Doley, a Republican appointee and one of the two dissenters, said that some of the affected black schools have fewer than 500 students and cannot absorb more funding. "I want to see these schools get as much funding as possible. This report is trying to create new programs," he said.

Mr. Doley added that the idea of implementing this additional funding in the next two years, an allocation that he called "disproportionate," was also a "political football."

"It could be used to embarrass the president at some point," Mr. Doley said. "He has already promised the largest funding increase ever, and this report is expecting something that is almost impossible to do."

The president in February appointed the advisers to identify ways to close what has been called the "achievement gap," the disparity of educational accomplishment between whites and nonwhites.

The board is primarily composed of academics, including several presidents of black colleges and universities, as well as several businessmen and women.

Mr. Payton, who described himself as a Bush supporter, said rather than a political hindrance, the plan, if adopted by the administration, "will help to drain some of the poison that many African Americans feel about the Republican Party."

Leonard Spearman, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and several other board members didn't return calls.

Some commentators and analysts question the need for historically black colleges and universities, since legally mandated segregation ended decades ago in the South and many blacks are attending state and private universities that have race-based admissions policies.


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