By Joelle Fredman, NASFAA Staff Reporter
A House appropriations subcommittee took steps toward finalizing its funding bill for fiscal year (FY) 2019 late last week that includes funding for labor, health and human services, and educational programs. While the subcommittee did propose increases in funding for the Department of Education (ED) for programs such as TRIO, they were not focused on those related to student grants or loans.
In its bill released Thursday, the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee overall allocated the same level of funding — $177.1 billion — to labor, health and human services, and educational programs, as was included in the FY 2018 budget. While it level-funded federal student aid programs, the committee did propose to increase funding for ED for certain programs to $71 billion — an increase of $43 million.
“This bill funds critical programs that will protect and save lives both now and in the future, and help prepare the next generation to be part of a productive workforce to grow our economy and provide for their families,” Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), chairman of the committee, said in a press release.
The increases for education included additional funding for programs related to special education, academic achievement, charter schools, and career, training and adult education. The committee also proposed an increase of $50 million for the TRIO program, and an increase of $10 million for the GEAR UP program.
“Once again, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill prioritizes and reflects the values that Americans truly care for… [T]he bill includes increases for important education programs like TRIO, career and technical education, and early childhood education initiatives” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a chairman of the committee, said in the press release.
However, the committee proposed to keep the maximum Pell Grant award for award year (AY) 2019-20 at $6,095, the same amount as in AY 2017-18, despite calls from many higher education stakeholders to index the award with inflation.
“The Federal Pell Grant was designed to provide qualified, low-income students basic access to postsecondary education, but these funds don’t go nearly as far as they once did to help cover the complete cost of a college education,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “If these awards don’t keep pace with rising inflation, it will present yet another challenge for low-income college students to surmount.”
Following the release of the bill, the subcommittee sent the draft legislation for markup Friday. Cole, addressing the subcommittee, said that the bill received thousands of requests and sought to include a majority of the submissions.
“The subcommittee received an overwhelming 12,700 requests from members. This year represents an 8 percent increase in member submissions over the prior year,” he said. “... I am pleased to say that the bill before us addresses about 90 percent of these requests.”
Ranking member Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), however, argued that the bill is flawed in that it makes no effort to appease both sides of the aisle. She urged the committee to learn from the Senate subcommittee on education, which passed its funding bill last year with bipartisan support.
“We really should be working together to emulate the Senate success, instead of wasting our time on partisan bills that have no chance of enactment,” Lowey said. “The bill before us today is filled with misplaced priorities, and misplaced opportunities.”
While Lowey and other members took issue with items in the bill such as cuts to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), she said she was open to finding comprises.
“There are so many good things in this bill... I do hope we can work together,” she said.
The bill will be next sent to the full committee for a markup.
This article will be updated to include any additional details following the release of the bill’s committee report, which details programmatic funding levels and provides additional policy guidance.
Publication Date: 6/18/2018
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