[AAACE-NLA] FW: Demise of FIPSE grant program
fkeenan at pbs.org
Tue Dec 21 16:10:37 EST 2004
Thought I'd pass this news (from last week) about FIPSE grants on to the
list because although FIPSE usually funds higher education projects, it
has also funded adult education projects under its post-secondary scope.
One such FIPSE project, now in final development at PBS, is Project
CONNECT, a web site for adults learning English.
Visit http://learnenglish.pbs.org to learn more about Project CONNECT.
Licenses to use the site in adult education classrooms will be available
in early 2005 from KET, which also distributes PBS LiteracyLink.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Congressional Earmarks Crowd Out Merit-Based Grants for Innovation in
By KELLY FIELD
The Education Department has canceled its annual grant competition for
the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education because Congress
has earmarked the bulk of the program's $163.6-million budget for
The program's budget, set in the spending bill for the 2005 fiscal year
that Congress approved last month, contains more than 400 pork-barrel
projects ranging in size from $25,000 to $5-million and costing a total
of $146.2-million. That leaves only $17.4-million to continue support
for existing grants, which means that Fipse program managers will not be
able to finance any of the 1,530 preliminary proposals that have already
Fipse supporters said they fear that the cancellation signals the demise
of the merit-based program, which was established in 1972 to support
innovation and reform in higher education. They say many of the
large-scale capital projects included in the appropriations bill -- like
the $5-million Strom Thurmond Fitness and Wellness Center at the
University of South Carolina at Columbia -- would not have qualified
under the competitive program, which typically provides campuses with
seed money for projects that could foster educational change nationwide.
Last year, Fipse awarded 50 grants averaging $194,000 for the first year
and $446,000 over three years.
"We're always looking to have ideas disseminated so other campuses can
benefit," said Augusta S. Kappner, the former chairman of Fipse's board
and the president of the Bank Street College of Education, in New York
City. "That generally doesn't happen with earmarks." Fipse has financed
some of the seminal studies on student assessment and supported
groundbreaking research on learning communities and cluster courses.
But the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee that
sets Fipse's budget defended the earmarks, arguing that members of
Congress are more in tune with the needs of colleges and universities in
their districts than the fund's program managers. The chairman, Rep.
Ralph Regula, Republican of Ohio, said lawmakers vet all potential
earmarks using a series of eight questions to ensure that they meet
program goals and requirements.
"Fipse doesn't have all the knowledge in the world," Mr. Regula said.
"The bureaucracy in Washington doesn't always have the last word on what
is valuable to society."
Since 1998, the number of earmarks in the Fipse budget has grown
exponentially, from two in the 1998 fiscal year to 16 in 1999, 51 in
2000, 136 in 2001, 272 in 2002, 306 in 2003, 328 in 2004, and 419 in the
current fiscal year. Earmarks now represent 89 percent of the program's
budget, an increase of 71 percent over 1998.
As a result of this shift, more universities are pursuing pork than in
the past, said Clara M. Lovett, president of the American Association
for Higher Education. "In past decades, they went after large grants
through the competitive process," she said. "Now, the pork-barrel
approach seems to be more productive."
The first hint that the competitive program was in jeopardy came in
1999, when Congress directed Fipse to give grants in 14 subjects and
suggested recipients for most of them. The Education Department
initially announced that it would cancel its annual competition (The
Chronicle, January 22, 1999), but then it decided instead to conduct a
new competition centered on the Congressionally mandated categories. In
the end, external reviewers bypassed four of the categories and all but
one of the 11 colleges that federal lawmakers named.
This time, though, the Education Department does not have that
flexibility. That's because the spending bill for the 1999 fiscal year
"encouraged" and "urged" Fipse to award specific grants, it did not
order the program to do so, as the current appropriations bill does.
However, Congress could choose to add more money to Fipse's budget.
While Fipse is not the only federal program that has become pork-heavy,
it has been particularly vulnerable to earmarking because it is so
small, said Debra Humphreys, vice president for communications and
public affairs for the Association of American Colleges and
Universities. "It is easy for lawmakers to not pay attention, or to
think they're not having much of an impact," she said.
But some higher-education lobbyists say the real culprit isn't the
earmarks, but the tax cuts and the war in Iraq, which are squeezing
domestic discretionary spending across the board.
"Everybody loves a line item when it's for your own project," said
Christie A. Dawson, director of federal relations for the American
Association of State Colleges and Universities. "But the problem really
is that education in general is not receiving nearly enough money. These
are the cracks that are beginning to show."
While the cancellation applies only to the current fiscal year, some
Fipse supporters fear it could discourage colleges from applying for
grants through the program in the future. Richard Harpel, director of
federal relations at the National Association of State Universities and
Land-Grant Colleges, urged institutions not to abandon the competitive
Earmarking is "so based on connections," he said. "There are 3,500
regionally granted accredited institutions and they aren't all best
friends of the chairman of the committee."
Copyright (c) 2004 by The Chronicle of Higher Education
The greatest boxer you never knew.
THE RISE AND FALL OF JACK JOHNSON.
January 17th & 18th, 9PM ET/PT only on PBS.
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