Will Congress take budget action in September?

With a new fiscal year coming in October, congress is making budget adjustments that will impact students and higher education institutions. While funds have been moved into programs such as the Pell Grant, the Federal Work Study and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants have received no funding. 

U.S. Congress mid-session.

This article first appeared on the University of Oregon Government and Community Relations Blog on September 1st, 2023.

With the new fiscal year fast approaching on October 1, Congress is considering budget changes impacting students and higher education institutions. The US House and Senate Appropriations committees have proposed significantly different FY24 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations funding levels. While important programs such as the Pell Grant have received increased funding in both House and Senate bills, other programs such as Federal Work Study and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants have received no funding in the House bill.

Compared to the House bills, the Senate appropriations bills contain higher levels of funding for most education programs and research priorities except for the National Science Foundation and NASA. Federal Work Study and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant are both eliminated in the House Labor-HHS appropriations bill and cut by $10 million in the Senate bill.

The Senate Labor-HHS-Education report includes $49.3 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including $1.5 billion for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), a $943 million increase over FY23 levels. The bill increases the maximum Pell award by $250 to $7,645 and flat funds many other programs such as TRIO (at $1.191 billion), GEAR UP (at $388 million), Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (at $23.5 million), and International Education Programs in Title VI (at $85.7 million), from FY23 levels. The Senate bills were developed on a bipartisan basis and reflect the debt ceiling agreement that was adopted in May. The House bills were developed along party lines.

In a letter dated July 28 to leaders of the House Committee on Appropriations, a coalition of higher education organizations,  including the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), shared their concerns about funding levels for student aid provided in the FY 2025 Labor-HHS-Education) bill, stating, “we strongly oppose the elimination of funding for the Federal Work-Study and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant programs. Together with the Pell Grant, these two programs provide the support needed for millions of low- and middle-income students to be able to attend college and earn a degree. We are deeply concerned such cuts will inhibit access to higher education and interrupt the path to degree completion for students presently enrolled.”

The Senate returns from August recess on Sept. 5 and the House returns Sept. 12. News accounts just before Labor Day report a possible agreement to bring forward a continuing resolution through early December, meaning the federal government would continue to be funded at FY23 levels.

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  • Will Lober