NAICU Washington Update

Senate Increases Student Aid Funding

June 11, 2014

The Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee wrote its FY 2015 spending bill providing increases for all student aid programs over last year’s levels. Despite a flat allocation, and two new major obligations, Senators made increases in student aid a top funding priority in the FY 2015 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill.

The bill, drafted by Subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA), provides a $100 increase in the Pell Grant maximum, and a $63 million increase across the other programs. Here are the highlights:

  • Pell Grant maximum increased by $100, to $5,830
  • SEOG increased by $15 million, to $748.1 million
  • FWS increased by $35 million, to $1.0 billion
  • TRIO increased by $8.4 million, to $847 million
  • GEAR UP increased by $3 million, to $304.6 million
  • Graduate Education increased by $1.7 million, to $31 million

In this bill, student aid must compete with funding for job training, health research, and special education. Given the current budget environment, we expected level funding of most student aid programs at best. New pressures were put on this bill, compared to last year, with two programs that needed additional unexpected funding – nonprofit student loan servicers (an additional $268 million), and unaccompanied alien children entering the U.S. (an additional $1 billion in HHS). We are pleasantly surprised that even with a flat budget and additional pressures, the committee went above and beyond to ensure low-income students have the aid they need to go to college.

These increases bring the student aid programs safely out of the hole dug by sequestration in 2013, but do not bring them back to the most recent high water mark of funding from 2010, with the exception of Federal Work Study.

Other programs of interest to private colleges also got increases in the bill:

  • NIH funding was increased by $606 million, finally restoring the FY 2013 sequestration cut
  • All Title III and Title V strengthening institutions programs were increased with an overall $8.7 million increase
  • Teacher Quality Partnership grants were increased by $2 million
  • International Domestic programs were increased by $9 million.

The Senate Full Committee has postponed further consideration of the bill this week. The House has not scheduled its Labor-HHS-Education mark up yet, but expects to have it before the July 4 recess.

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