Congress Reauthorizes Higher Ed Act, Farm Bill

Nov 15th, 2008 | By | Category: 20-2: Native Green, Tribal College News

Just one day prior to adjourning for its annual summer recess, Congress reauthorized the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, with the passage of the College Opportunity and Affordability Act. This legislation included reauthorization of two critical provisions: 1) the Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) Developing Institutions grant program under Title III of the Higher Education Act and 2) the Tribal College Act.

Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act took more than five years and 14 temporary extensions, but when it finally passed, it was by wide margins: The House vote was 380-49, and the Senate vote was 83-8.

The tribal colleges and their national organization, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), sought several amendments to the Title III program and the Tribal College Act, all of which were enacted, according to Meg Goetz, AIHEC’s vice president for operations and Congressional affairs.

The development grants under the TCU HEA Title III program will now be formula funded, with the base grant level being established at $500,000. The authority for the Secretary of Education to conduct an annual competition to award one-year construction grants is retained, with the minimum grant level being set at $1 million.

Some of the more significant changes to the Tribal College Act that were adopted include an increase to the authorization level for institutional operations from $6,000 per Indian student to $8,000, adjusted annually for inflation. The definition of “Indian student” for the purpose of this legislation is expanded to include the biological children of an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe.

Also, a new title was added to the act providing a new and separate authorization for Department of the Interior funding for AIHEC’s two tribally controlled postsecondary career and technical institutions: United Tribes Technical College (Bismarck, ND) and Navajo Technical College (Crownpoint, NM).

Earlier this spring, Congress passed, and the President signed, legislation to reauthorize the Farm Bill with important ramifications for TCU land grant institutions. Once again, all of the amendments sought by AIHEC on behalf of the TCUs were adopted.

Two significant changes were made. Ilisagvik College (Barrow, AK) was added to the list of tribal college land grant institutions 2) the non-federal matching required for a TCU was reduced to not more than five-percent under the Tribal College Essential Community Facilities grants program. (This program was established in 2001 as part of AIHEC’s TCU facilities and infrastructure improvement and construction initiative.)

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