By Owen Daugherty, NASFAA Staff Reporter
In addition to reversing years of stagnant funding for education, President Joe Biden’s proposal for the upcoming fiscal year 2022 education budget that is currently moving its way through Congress would build on and expand the pandemic-relief already allocated for education, panelists said during a Committee for Education Funding (CEF) event Tuesday.
The event, hosted by the nonprofit and nonpartisan coalition of more than 100 education organizations and institutions, highlighted key elements of the budget proposal and touched on funding measures for early education through higher education.
The fiscal year 2022 spending plan, which was advanced this week by the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) Appropriations Subcommittee and now moves to the full appropriations committee, contains an overall 41% increase above the fiscal year 2021 enacted level for Department of Education (ED) programs, matching the president’s budget request of $102.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for ED.
Focusing on the higher education portion of the budget proposal, Richard Davis Jr., NASFAA's 2021 Dallas Martin Endowment Policy Intern, noted the historic funding increase included in the spending plan and the positive impact it could have on those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford enrolling.
Specifically, Davis pointed to a $2.6 billion increase for student aid programs, including an increase in the maximum Pell Grant by $400 that would boost the 2022-23 maximum award to $6,895. This $400 increase in discretionary funding is the same as the increase included in President Biden’s discretionary budget request and is in addition to the $1,400 increase proposed in Biden’s American Families Plan back in April.
He said the investment in the federal Pell Grant program will restore the purchasing power of the grant after years when it was sapped due to stagnant funding at the federal level and the increasing cost to attend a postsecondary institution.
Additionally, Davis noted that Biden called these investments a “down payment” toward his campaign pledge to double the maximum Pell Grant award, which will “open the door for so many low-income students who have been priced out of college,” Davis said.
Craig Statucki, director of the office of career readiness, adult learning, and education options for the Nevada Department of Education, spoke to how the funding for career and technical education (CTE) will help his state — and the entire country — rebound from the coronavirus pandemic and boost the economy.
He said Nevada has seen a significant increase in students who view CTE as a viable path to a quality job, with over 5,800 more students enrolled in one or more CTE courses associated with a program of study in 2020-21 than in 2018-19.
"CTE at the secondary and postsecondary levels is an integral part of achieving an equitable and efficient economic recovery,” Statucki added. “These programs are a perfect example of Nevada growing its workforce to meet our economies.”
While much of the event focused on early-childhood education aspects of the spending plan, Davis acknowledged that with a vast majority of higher education institutions returning to in-person instruction and federal relief funds serving as an infusion of money and not a long term investment, federal funding in the form of an increased budget will ensure that students can focus on learning when they return to school.
“As students return some will be facing housing and food insecurity, trouble accessing childcare for parents, mental health challenges, and the list goes on,” he said. “We have to know that those challenges existed way before the pandemic began and unless we address those with funding, the challenges are going to persist for a long time.”
Publication Date: 7/14/2021
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