The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies bill on July 11 on a party-line vote. The measure offers good news for community college students, providing an increase in the Pell Grant maximum while restoring funding to pre-sequestration levels for many other student aid and workforce training programs. Republicans voted against the bill because it exceeds the Budget Control Act (BCA) sequester caps and funds the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The Senate bill preserves discretionary funding for Pell while providing a mandatory inflation adjustment that boosts the Pell Grant maximum from $5,645 to $5,785. Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) would be level funded but Federal Work-Study would receive a boost of $50 million. The TRIO and GEAR UP programs would receive increases (over the pre-sequester levels) of $10 million and $5 million, respectively. Carl D. Perkins Basic State Grants would be funded at $1.123 billion and Adult Basic and Literacy Education State Grants would be funded at the pre-sequester FY 2013 level. The Senate appropriators did provide additional funding for the CTE and adult education national programs. Current funding levels for the HEA Titles III and V programs are essentially maintained but the bill provides an increase of $7 million for international education.
For job training, the bill includes $2.7 billion, an increase of $86 million, for Workforce Investment Act grants to the states for job training and assistance to low-skilled adults, dislocated workers, and low-income youth. It also provides $301 million for veterans employment, an increase of $37 million, to expand employment services to transitioning servicemembers, veterans with disabilities, and their spouses and caregivers.
The legislation also provides funding for several new initiatives included in President Obama’s FY 2014 education budget. In addition to boosting support for early childhood education and quality child care, the bill provides $250 million for a new Race to the Top – College Affordability and Completion (CAC), and funding for a dual enrollment demonstration program. The CAC grants would be provided competitively to states to incentivize public higher education reform. Goals include improving college affordability and quality, and increasing institutional capacity to graduate more students, including low-income, minority, non-traditional, and students with disabilities. The Senate bill states that before awarding CAC grants, the Secretary “may require states to provide evidence of a commitment to implement reforms” that would
- Increase or sustain “fiscal support for public higher education while modernizing funding policies to constrain costs and improve student outcomes;”
- Create or remove barriers to “innovative and effective methods of student learning and degree pathways;”
- Empower “consumer choice in postsecondary education through increased transparency on college costs, quality, affordability, and student outcomes;” and
- Increase “awareness about college and financial aid among secondary school students, providing accelerated learning opportunities, and providing for the seamless transition from secondary into postsecondary education and between institutions of higher education.”
The dual enrollment program would provide grants, loans, and work-study to “low-income students who would qualify for Pell grants, but are not eligible because they do not have a high school diploma.” The grants would fund tuition, fees, and supplies for participation in a dual enrollment high school-college program. The program is designed to shorten the time-to-degree, reduce college costs for students, and increase college enrollment.
The House has not scheduled a mark-up of its bill yet. However, with an allocation that is 26% below the Senate’s for Labor-HHS-Education, the House Appropriations Committee will be hard pressed to set funding levels for politically popular education and workforce training programs.