The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) Appropriations Subcommittee approved their fiscal year (FY) 2016 spending bill on Tuesday.
On the heels of last week’s House Labor-H spending bill, the Senate Subcommittee bill cut $1.7 billion from the Education Department, including funding for the Title IV programs for the 2016-17 award year. Under the bill, the discretionary portion of the Pell Grant program would be rescinded by $300 million for FY 2016. The $300 million would be taken from Pell’s current surplus, so while this would still yield a scheduled maximum grant of $5,915 for AY 2016-17, it will cause problems in the future as Pell’s surplus is typically used for to cover any shortfalls that might occur.
Unlike the House bill that level-funded Federal Work-Study (FWS) and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) at FY 2015 levels, the Senate bill enacts a $29 million cut to FSEOG and a $45 million cut to FWS. These cuts mark a setback for the campus-based programs as they were level-funded last year, even under the lower overall spending caps under sequestration. As has been the case since FY 2005, there was no funding for the Perkins Loan program.
Both TRIO and GEAR UP programs are level-funded in the Senate bill, whereas the House bill provided small increases for both programs. The bill would provide a $2 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health.
In addition, the bill contains several non-funding directives, including provisions to block gainful employment, credit hour, and state authorization program integrity regulations. The bill also includes a provision to block the Obama administration’s Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS), which is slated to debut this summer.
While both the House and Senate bills make damaging overall cuts to the Department of Education, the Title IV federal student aid programs fare far worse under the Senate bill. The House bill was taken up and passed by the full House Appropriations Committee yesterday, and the Senate bill will be taken up today before the full Senate Appropriations Committee. This is the first time in several years that Labor-H spending bills have been considered by full appropriations committees. Even though this marks significant progress in the appropriations process, there is a still a long road ahead before Congress resolves a final spending bill. NASFAA continues to advocate heavily for the full funding of all of the Title IV programs and will continue to do so as the process moves forward.
For more information on the budget process, visit NASFAA’s interactive Budget Tool.
Publication Date: 6/25/2015