By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter
Congress averted a government shutdown to kick off the start of the new fiscal year by clearing a continuing resolution that will keep the government funded through December 3.
As legislators now approach the year-end crunch of activity there are a number of spending priorities that will need to be addressed before the close of 2021. With 2022 being an election year, policies left up in the air by year’s end could easily slip to the agenda of a new Congress that might have less of an appetite for certain programs.
In the past week there has been a significant ramping up in negotiations over the size and scope of the reconciliation package with the Democrats’ progressive wing pushing leadership to commit to a top-line figure of $3.5 trillion while key senators aim to narrow the fiscal reach of the legislation.
On the higher education front, the current version of the $3.5 trillion budget resolution would allocate increased funding and expanded eligibility for the Pell Grant program, grants for tuition-free community college, tuition assistance for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), new retention and completion grants, and a change to Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) eligibility for active duty members of the armed services.
Expect negotiations over this legislation to continue in the weeks ahead with what could be significant funding alterations should Democrats push forward with an amended top-line number.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Package
President Joe Biden’s other legislative priority is shepherding through a bipartisan infrastructure package which contains far fewer higher education policies but does make investments in broadband benefits for Pell Grant recipients.
Wrap Up Fiscal Year 2022-23
While enactment of the continuing resolution staves off a government shutdown to kick off the new fiscal year, members will have to come to a new spending agreement before December 3 otherwise daily operations across all federal agencies will be impacted.
Should Congress try to bundle all of these fiscal year 2022 spending bills together, there might be a massive omnibus spending bill developed in December that could serve as a vehicle for enacting a host of policy changes like Pell Grants, funding for campus-based aid programs and codification of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.
Stay tuned to Today’s News as we keep tabs on the legislative landscape in the week’s ahead.
Publication Date: 10/4/2021
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