Proposed cuts in federal education funding are forcing local college officials to come up with creative ways to fund programs that might be affected by these cuts. If approved, President Bush's budget would cut 66 percent of funding for adult basic education classes. Adult basic education programs include GED courses, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, high-school-diploma courses, and family-literacy programs.

The budget proposal calls for $56 billion in education funding, a decrease of $530 million from the current fiscal year. The president has proposed eliminating 48 federal programs and reducing funding for several others.

In a press conference last week, officials from Black Hawk College, St. Ambrose University, Eastern Iowa Community College District (EICCD), and Davenport Community Schools addressed concerns about education cuts.

Among programs targeted for elimination is the Carl Perkins program, which funds vocational- and technical-education classes.

At EICCD, about 330,000 students are in the vocational and technical programs, and 230,000 of them will be affected, said Gary Mohr, executive assistant of external affairs.

And half of the total student body at Black Hawk will be affected by the cuts, according to Chanda Dowell, executive assistant to the president. The loss of Perkins money would cost Black Hawk College more than $518,000.

Elimination of the Perkins program would not only affect college students, but many area high-school students attend vocational and technical classes at community colleges and can finish as much as one year of college while still attending high school.

For Davenport schools, funding cuts could mean losing as much as $14.1 million for career and technical education, $2.4 million in education technology, $1 million for career and technical information, and $1.1 million for comprehensive school reform, according to a press release.

At St. Ambrose University, cuts in the Perkins program might affect majority of the university's students who receive financial aid through the federal Pell grant program, which provides assistance to low- to moderate-income students. Dr. James Loftus, vice president for enrollment management and student services, noted at the press conference that more than 500 students would be impacted.

"The funding formula has been redone so that a lot of students who currently qualify [for Pell grants] might not," EICCD Chancellor Patricia Keir said.

Bush has proposed increasing the maximum Pell-grant amount by $100 per student per year.

The president's proposal to cut adult-education funding could also have a major impact locally. EICCD would lose roughly $330,000, and Black Hawk would lose $260,000 under Bush's proposal.

Beyond affecting schools financially, the cuts could have a profound impact on the lives of students. English as a Second Language students, for example, are usually recent immigrants who have a desire to learn English to become accustomed to American society. "Without this credential they are often trapped in low-wage, dead-end jobs," Dowell said.

These cuts might mean a loss of programming for 550 students at Black Hawk College, Dowell said.

Many students that attend adult-education classes cannot afford to pay for the classes but are not eligible for much financial aid because adult-education classes are not for college credit.

Adult-education and ESL classes at Black Hawk are currently full, and many others have waiting lists, Dowell said at the press conference. Cuts to funding might worsen the situation.

Black Hawk College and EICCD officials are scrambling to find alternatives for funding before the next fiscal year's budgets are finalized. "Funding cuts can be a blessing in disguise," Dowell said. "It forces us to look at what we're doing and see what is most important - the students."

Dowell also said that tuition might be raised to offset the cuts. "We try not to focus on cuts, but what we can do to grow our way out," she said. "We do our best not to eliminate services."

She added that the college might re-allocate staff and money within its budget.

EICCD's Keir also said it's possible that vacant staff positions might not be filled.

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