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War on Terror: Coming to Your College Campus

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Students are finding that the “war on terror” is not only being fought on distant battlefields. Now it has entered academia, invited by colleges and universities that have accepted money from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to include curricula about anti-terrorism. The majority of these are community colleges.

Since DHS was created, its annual budget has averaged $3 billion per year for research and development, according to the Washington Post. This year, that budget grew to more than $4 billion, with $64 million from DHS going to college and university anti-terrorism programs, major research centers, and scholarships and fellowships—an appealing proposition for schools in financial straits.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), 80 percent of community colleges now tap into DHS funds by offering coursework related to homeland security. At these schools, which already offer such programs as fire fighting, law enforcement, and criminal justice, the homeland security coursework seems similar to the original curricula. In fact, many people believe offering DHS studies at community colleges is a logical evolution. At a press conference in March of 2004, Hillary Clinton noted that “the infrastructure is already in place” for the two to meet.

But some educators worry that DHS-specific coursework that includes such offerings as “Radioactive Materials” and “Terrorism Risk Assessment” will displace traditional programs. They fear narrowing the scope of graduates' expertise to fighting terrorism.

Minority students are disproportionately affected. Of those attending college, 56 percent of Latinos, 47 percent of African Americans, and 57 percent of Native Americans attend community colleges, according to AACC. For those struggling to pay tuition, the option of homeland security courses is appealing: DHS will give students $1,000 per month and $5,000 for a summer if the recipient indicates “a willingness” to accept DHS-affiliated employment after graduation.

Valerie Doyle is an intern at YES! Email Signup
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