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What is a Minority Serving Institution (MSI)?

A Minority Serving Institution (MSI) is a Department of Education designated college or university such as a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), or a Tribal College or University (TCU).

What opportunities are available for MSI's at the Department of Commerce?

The opportunities available to colleges and universities include telecommunications infrastructure assistance; scientific and engineering research; coastal and sea grant programs; climate, weather and air quality research; data center partnerships; economic development and much more. The Department has also donated computer equipment to MSI's.

What is the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Program?

The federal government's HBCU program was established by President Carter. President Clinton's Executive Order 12876, dated November 1, 1993, reaffirmed the commitment made by President Carter to support these institutions and their development of human potential. The Office of Civil Rights has administered the Department of Commerce's HBCU Program since 1994. A primary objective of the HBCU program is to "... strengthen aspects of their academic, physical, and administrative infrastructures, while at the same time, fulfilling specific agency objectives." More specifically, the program seeks to enhance opportunities for HBCUs to attract funding from the Federal and private sectors; strengthen communication linkages between HBCUs and Federal agencies to increase the number of contractual relationships; enhance current institutional capacities of HBCUs to compete for Federal dollars through more effective technical assistance and information flow; and encourage collaborations and partnerships among HBCUs and other organizations to produce the greatest leverage of Federal and private dollars. Each year, the Department submits an Annual Report to the Office of White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Among other things, this report outlines goals for funds to be awarded to HBCUs in upcoming periods, and identifies funds and other activities provided in the last reporting period.

What is the Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans Program?

In October 2001, President Bush issued an Executive Order establishing in the Department of Education, the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. The same order established, in the Department of Education, an office called the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. The purpose of the Order is to advance the development of human potential, to strengthen the Nation's capacity to provide high-quality education, and to increase opportunities for Hispanic Americans to participate in and benefit from Federal education programs.

What is the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program?

Tribal Colleges were created over the last 30 years in response to the higher education needs of American Indians, and generally serve geographically isolated populations that have no other means of accessing education beyond the high school level. They have become increasingly important to educational opportunity for American Indian students, an importance they have achieved in a relatively brief period of time. Tribal Colleges are unique institutions that combine personal attention with cultural relevance, in such a way as to encourage American Indians "especially those living on reservations" to overcome the barriers they face to higher education.

In October, 1996, President William J. Clinton signed an Executive Order establishing a the President's Board of Advisors on Tribal Colleges and Universities. The Order also reaffirms the special relationship of the Federal Government to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The purpose of the Order is to help: ensure that tribal colleges and universities are more fully recognized as accredited institutions, have access to the opportunities afforded other institutions, and have Federal resources committed to them on a continuing basis; establish a mechanism that will increase accessibility of Federal resources for tribal colleges and universities in tribal communities; promote access to high-quality educational opportunity for economically disadvantaged students; promote the preservation and the revitalization of American Indian and Alaska Native languages and cultural traditions; explore innovative approaches to better link tribal colleges with early childhood, elementary, and secondary education programs; and support the National Education Goals.

The Board also provides recommendations to the President and the Secretary of Education on ways tribal colleges can: utilize long-term development, endowment building, and master planning to strengthen institutional viability; utilize the Federal and private sector to improve financial management and security, obtain private sector funding support, and expand and complement Federal education initiatives; develop institutional capacity through the use of new and emerging technologies offered by both the Federal and private sectors; enhance physical infrastructure to facilitate more efficient operation and effective recruitment and retention of students and faculty; and help achieve National Education Goals and meet other high standards of education accomplishment.

The Department of Commerce, along with other Federal agencies, is required, in collaboration with tribal colleges, develop and document a Five-Year Plan of it efforts to fulfill the purpose of the Order. The plan must address: barriers impeding the access of tribal colleges to funding opportunities and to participation in Federal programs, and ways to eliminate the barriers; technical assistance and information that will be made available to tribal colleges regarding the program activities of the agency and the preparation of applications or proposals for grants, cooperative agreements, or contracts; and an annual goal for funds to be awarded to tribally controlled colleges and universities.

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Page last updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2011