Allen amendment to help minority institutions

After three years of pushing a bill to help minority colleges get digital networks, outgoing Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) has finally succeeded, with the Senate approving the program as an amendment to the 2007 Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill passed Nov. 14.

The amendment establishes the Minority Serving Institution Digital and Wireless Technology Opportunity Program to provide grants for such institutions to acquire hardware and software to set up wired and wireless networks. The program will run four years, ending in fiscal 2010.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the cost of Allen's original bill (S. 432) for the fiscal years 2007-2010 at $793 million. The 2007 Military Construction/VA spending bill did not specify the cost of the Allen amendment.

Institutions eligible for grants under the program include historically black colleges or universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, colleges or universities controlled by American Indian tribes, and Alaska or Hawaii native-serving institutions. Grant recipients must match contributions equal to one-quarter of the federal grant or $500,000, whichever is less. The bill also provides that any institution which receives a grant in excess of $2.5 million will not be eligible for any other federal networking grant.

The minority institution network amendment says eligible institutions may form partnerships with state or local educational agencies, community-based organizations, national nonprofit organizations or businesses, including minority business.

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