Republicans say they plan an overhaul of federal education law. And until that desire is approved in the U.S. Senate, they continue to object to Senate Democrats who recently attempted to advance $255 million a year in funding a program to bolster science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at minority-serving colleges.
Both parties say they want to give historically Black colleges, tribal colleges and higher education institutions that serve Hispanic students the help sorely needed for STEM programs. But in this latest example of tug-of-war, it’s minority-serving institutions and their six million students who remain the victims.
Funding officially ran out Sept. 30 with the end of the last fiscal year. Officials from the U.S. Department of Education promise that money will continue to flow through the current school year but given promises that have been broken or held up in the past, leaders at these institutions have already begun to identify ways to make cuts. Additionally, most school leaders have put a halt on any plans related to the next school year.
It’s a difficult time for students and faculty. Some, says Harry L. Williams, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund in a New York Times interview, “are making plans to try to find something else – to pack up their families to move somewhere else.”
College presidents assert the funding is essential to fill the pipeline of minority students flowing into STEM professions. But with historically Black colleges and universities enrolling 10 percent of all Black college students but producing 21 percent of all Black STEM graduates, it’s an easy decision for Congress.
The tragedy, however, is even when things are simple, in this political atmosphere, they still aren’t simple enough.