NAICU Washington Update

Student Aid Funding Bill Shows Strong Support for Critical Programs

November 13, 2020

In the first move of the lame duck session of the 116th Congress, the Senate Appropriations Committee released all 12 subcommittee spending bills, setting the table for negotiations with the House of Representatives on final FY 2021 funding levels.
Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) includes no programmatic cuts to student aid funding in his Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee bill, which also increases the Pell Grant maximum by $150, to $6,495, and level funds all other student aid programs. While there will not be a subcommittee mark-up to hear from Senators about their views on the bill, the explanatory statement that accompanies it notes the continued commitment to funding student aid:  
“The Committee continues to build on the significant investments in recent years to help students of all backgrounds enter and complete college, further their post-secondary education, develop the skills needed for the in-demand jobs of today and the future, and graduate with less debt.”
The bill also includes funding increases for programs serving Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and other Minority Serving Institutions, while level-funding International Education, the Child Care Access Means Parents in School initiative, and Teacher Quality Partnerships.
Finally, the bill provides a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health, bringing the Institute’s budget to $44 billion.
While both chambers are working under the same budget cap, the House version of the bill, passed in July, also provides a $150 increase in the Pell Grant maximum and includes modest increases for all student aid programs. The House bill also includes $24 billion in emergency funding for health and jobs programs that the Senate version does not include.
Negotiations on final spending bills for FY 2021 are expected to be done behind closed doors, not in a public conference committee, and wrapped into an omnibus appropriations bill to facilitate passage. The current continuing resolution keeping the government open expires on December 11. House and Senate leadership will need to decide if the omnibus bill for FY 2021 appropriations also includes additional coronavirus relief supplemental funds, or if the two move as separate packages.