'Emergency' Legislation Proposes To Give $23 Billion To Public Universities

06/15/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Public universities around the country, struggling with massive budget shortfalls and double-digit tuition increases, have largely gone ignored by the federal government this fiscal year. Until now.

A group of Democratic senators led by Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has put forth a plan -- titled the "Keep Our Educators Working Act of 2010" -- that would allocate $23 billion to state schools, the majority of which will go to staving off job cuts.

Under the proposed legislation, each state's governor would receive a formula-driven share of the $23 billion fiscal year with which to replace any money that they have cut or will cut from their 2010 and 2011 budgets for elementary/secondary schools and public colleges and universities. (The governor is supposed to distribute the funds proportionally based on the amounts cut from the two sectors, but can "adjust" the amounts by up to 10 percent of the larger of the two totals.) Unlike the stimulus funds, which states could use either to save jobs or to refurbish facilities, the money in the proposed legislation can be used only for "compensation and benefits and other expenses necessary to retain existing employees" or hire new ones, or for "on-the-job training activities" for "education-related careers."

Most of the stimulus money directed at education went to elementary and secondary schools. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, passed last month, focused on bolstering community colleges and historically black colleges and universities.

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