Congress Avoids Government Shutdown, Delays Increase in Education Budget

Congress struck a deal on Thursday to temporarily fund the federal government, once again delaying the annual appropriation process and locking in the Trump administration’s higher education funding levels for at least the next two months .

With the passage of the interim financing bill, Congress met its Friday deadline and avoided a government shutdown. The House and Senate now have until February 18 to reach agreement on the language of the 12 supply bills that fund the activities of the federal government, including the Department of Education.

“While I wish it had been sooner, this agreement allows the crediting process to move forward to a final funding agreement that meets the needs of the American people,” said the chair of the credit committee. of the House, Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, in a statement announcing the agreement.

The deadline until February for a final funding deal is longer than in recent years, but not significantly outside of what is typical, said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of government relations and public affairs at the American Council on Education. Congress is supposed to have an appropriation deal by the time the new fiscal year begins October 1, but that rarely happens.

“They usually want to wrap up before the end of the calendar year because at the end of December we’re already at 25 percent of the federal fiscal year,” Hartle said. “But sometimes, as in today’s controversial political climate, they can’t do it. And if they can’t do that, kicking the box is always the preferred option.

The House Appropriations Committee approved its draft budget for higher education spending in July. The legislation provides $ 27.2 billion for federal student assistance programs and an additional $ 3.43 billion for higher education programs. The bill would increase the maximum Pell grant amount by $ 400 for the 2022-2023 academic year and provide institutions serving minorities, including historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic institutions, and tribal colleges and universities, a total of $ 1.13 billion.

However, the Senate has yet to make substantial progress on its supply proposal since the committee released a draft in October. The upper house bill reflects the priorities of the House version, but with slightly lower investments. Both versions align closely with President Biden’s budget request.

Delaying the appropriation process until February won’t mean much for higher education in the meantime, and even if the legislation is four months behind schedule, the impacts will be minimal. It may be more difficult for agencies like the National Institutes of Health, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation, for which Democrats have proposed budget increases, to shell out money for grant programs, because they’d have less than a year to do so.

“This underlines why it is so critical that Congress finish its work and that research agencies know the funding levels for the fiscal year they will need to support the research that grows our economy,” said Craig Lindwarm, vice-president. president of government affairs. to the Association of Public and Land Universities. “In order to achieve the increases that are in the Fiscal 22 Appropriation Bills as they currently exist, Congress must complete its work.”

Other programs, like the Pell Grant program, should not be affected – if the $ 400 increase is passed, it should still go into effect by the next academic year and students should have no problem with the to receive.

Sometimes Congress makes small changes to existing spending by passing the temporary funding measure, and that was the case with the bill passed last week. Lawmakers added $ 7 billion to help Afghan refugees resettle in the United States, which involves part of higher education, Hartle noted.

“This provision is of interest to some colleges and universities that are attempting to assist the State Department in these relocation efforts,” Hartle said. “We were delighted to see that this was included. “

About Mark A. Tomlin

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