House Fiscal Year 2021 Education Spending Bill Includes Slight Boost to Student Financial Aid

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter

The House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) Appropriations Subcommittee on Monday released its fiscal year 2021 spending bill, which would provide a total of $73.5 billion in discretionary funds for the Department of Education (ED), an increase of $716 million from fiscal year 2020 and $6.9 billion from the president’s budget request.

The measure counters President Donald Trump’s budget proposal that offered a slew of new policy proposals aimed at setting loan limits for students and parents and restructuring the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), alongside significant cuts to federal student aid programs — part of an overall $5.6 billion cut to ED.

“This spending bill determines the critical federal investments in health, labor, human services, and education, and builds on this subcommittee’s efforts at the center of the health and economic crises, both of which have exposed serious disparities,” Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said. “The programs in which we are investing create opportunities and allow America to realize its values and promise. We must work together to deliver the people in this country to the dawn of recovery, not abandon them to an economic collapse.”

If enacted the measure would provide $24.6 billion for federal student aid programs, which is $45 million above funding levels enacted in fiscal year 2020 and $1.6 billion more than the president’s budget request. This increase includes a $150 boost to the  maximum Pell Grant — bringing the maximum award to $6,495 — $880 million for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program (a $15 million increase from 2020), and $1.2 billion for the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program (a $30 million increase from 2020).

Additionally, other higher education programs would receive $2.6 billion — more than $81 million above funding levels enacted in fiscal year 2020 and $768 million above the president’s budget request. This increase includes $808 million for Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), marking an $81 million increase above fiscal 2020 levels and $768 million above the president’s budget request. Funding would increase from enacted 2020 levels by $19 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), to $344 million, by $12 million for Hispanic Serving Institutions, to $155 million, and by $2 million for Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities, to $39 million. 

The House Democrats’ spending plan would also allocate $1.1 billion for federal TRIO programs, $370 million for GEAR UP, and $31 million for the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) program.

The measure also includes language that would permit incarcerated individuals to be eligible for Pell Grants and would adjust the so-called 90/10 rule, by requiring for-profit colleges to derive more of their revenue from non-federal sources, lowering the ratio to 85/15.

House appropriations subcommittees are currently slated to consider all of their fiscal year 2021 spending bills this week, with the Labor-H subcommittee scheduled to consider its measure on Tuesday. Full committee markups are set to follow, beginning on July 9.

The Senate originally planned to hold markups on its proposals during the week of June 22, but has since postponed consideration and release of the measures while senators work out a number of policy issues, stemming from national protests, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as standard policy debates like Environmental Protection Agency regulations or the president’s use of emergency funds.

Until the Senate begins its markups, the process will largely remain stalled and could easily force Congress, facing a presidential election year along with the ongoing health and economic ramifications of the novel coronavirus, to rely on a continuing resolution with the September 30 funding deadline rapidly approaching.

Congress had to rely on a number of continuing resolutions last year to complete its appropriations work, but managed to wrap up all 12 spending bills by the end of December. In staving off a government shutdown, fiscal 2020 spending included a $150 increase to the maximum Pell Grant award, and addressed ongoing issues with federal loan servicers and foreign gift reporting requirements.

For more information on the federal budget process, see NASFAA’s Federal Budget and Appropriations page and NASFAA’s budget FAQs.


Publication Date: 7/7/2020

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