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Published in Print: August 4, 1999, as Colleges for Minority Students Form Coalition

Colleges for Minority Students Form Coalition

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Officials at 321 colleges and universities that specialize in serving minority students have banded together to form a consortium they hope will turn heads on Capitol Hill and in statehouses around the country.

The members of the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education have called for urgent and expanded support of their institutions, which, they contend, are underfinanced. Some 175 Hispanic-serving institutions, 118 historically black colleges and universities, and 31 tribal schools have signed up. The colleges enroll, respectively, 42 percent of all Hispanic, 24 percent of all African-American, and 16 percent of all American Indian college students.

"One of the first priorities is getting information out about the schools," said Colleen O'Brien, the managing director of the Washington-based Institution for Higher Education Policy, the organization that is coordinating the alliance. "Outside of the trade press, not a lot is known about these schools. We want to put them on the map."

More Needs, Less Revenue

The alliance, described as the first of its kind, will promote collaboration among institutions and lobby federal and state governments to influence public policy. The agenda includes increasing overall funding for the schools and money for student financial aid.

The effort is being underwritten by a $200,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich.

Leaders of such predominantly minority colleges and universities maintain that the challenges their schools face are different from those at other public and private colleges.

A majority of such schools serve poor students who need large financial-aid packages, remedial courses, and extensive mentoring, all of which are expensive, said Ricardo R. Fernandez, the president of Herbert H. Lehman College, a City University of New York school whose enrollment is 41 percent Hispanic and 30 percent black.

The alliance "sends a very important message that there are needs," Mr. Fernandez said.

Those institutions that are geared specifically to minority students receive 36 percent less revenue per student from federal, state, and institutional sources than other U.S. colleges and universities, an IHEP study found.

An education at an alliance school, however, is significantly less expensive than at other colleges, designed in part to ensure that needy students can afford tuition and fees, the study found. The average in-state undergraduate cost of tuition and fees at an alliance school during the 1996-97 academic year was $3,180, compared with $4,564 at all other two- and four-year colleges and universities.

"The lion's share keeps going to more established and more endowed institutions," said Antonio Flores, the president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, a San Antonio-based membership group.

"We want to see a shift in policy that allows minority [-serving] institutions a larger share of the ... pie," he said.

Vol. 18, Issue 43, Page 14

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