NAICU Washington Update

House Appropriators Increase Student Aid Funding

July 09, 2020

The House of Representative’s Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee marked up its FY2021 spending bill, providing increases for all the student aid programs, anchored by a $150 increase in the Pell Grant award maximum, to $6,495. 

Other program increases include: 
  • Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG): an increase of $15 million, to $880 million; 
  • Federal Work Study: an increase of $30 million, to $1.2 billion; 
  • TRIO programs: an increase of $10 million, to $1.1 billion; and 
  • GEAR UP: an increase of $5 million, to $370 million.  
While modest, the increases in federal student aid programs demonstrate the importance of making these programs a priority under budget spending caps.  Both Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) voiced support for the student aid programs, and recognized that students will have greater need going forward due to the implications of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Other education programs of interest to private colleges are also increased in the bill, including funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions, Teacher Quality Partnership Grants, Child Care Access Means Parents in School, and Centers of Excellence for Veteran Student Success. To address college students facing food, housing and transportation insecurity, a $5 million pilot program for Basic Needs Grants is funded through FIPSE. 

In the absence of an updated Higher Education Act (HEA), appropriators included a few legislative items in the bill, including language: 
  • Blocking the Department of Education from implementing the Title IX regulations;
  • Authorizing the use of Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals pursuing higher education; 
  • Reinstating the 85/15 provision requiring for-profits to have no more than 85% of their funding from the federal government, and providing a new definition of “federal educational assistance” to ensure for-profit colleges count CARES Act and other emergency funds in their count of federal funds; and 
  • Reauthorizing the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI). 
Emergency Funding and Next Steps 

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the bill also provides significant increases for public health programs. In addition to regular appropriations for health programs, the bill includes $24 billion in emergency funding for public health related activities, including increasing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding by $5 billion, to $47 billion.  The bill also provided increased funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and other programs. 

The bill does not include emergency funding for pandemic costs for schools, as the committee believes these funds are already provided through the HEROES Act, which passed the House in May. 

While supportive of the need to address work, public health, and education issues related to the pandemic, Rep. Cole and other Republican members of the subcommittee did not vote in favor of the bill for procedural reasons.  They recognize the needs, but prefer to work on funding those through a separate emergency supplemental bill, rather than adding it to the regular appropriations bills. 

The full Appropriations Committee is expected to pass the bill the week of July 13, with plans for a floor vote before the August recess. 

Senate action on both the regular appropriations bills and the next pandemic supplemental remain stalled. 

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