Congressional appropriators finalized the FY 2014 omnibus spending bill last evening, paving the way for House and Senate votes later this week. The nearly 1,600 page bill provides funding for programs under all 12 appropriations subcommittees through September 30, including Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, approved by Congress in December, set the overall cap on discretionary spending at $1.012 trillion—roughly halfway between the House and the Senate topline figures.
Unlike the expiring FY 2014 continuing resolution (CR), that largely preserved FY 2013 funding levels for programs, the omnibus bill shifts funding to specific priorities and provides directives to the various federal agencies. The news for education is mixed with some programs frozen at their post-sequester levels but others are partially restored.
Department of Education
The good news for Pell Grant recipients is that the discretionary funding base of $4,860 is preserved in the omnibus, which when combined with mandatory funding for the program will result in an increase of $85 in the Pell Grant maximum next year, to $5,730. Funding for the Federal Work Study ($974.7 million) and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant ($733.1 million) programs was restored to their pre-sequester FY 2013 levels.
Trio and GEAR-UP also recovered all of their sequester cuts, while most of these cuts were restored to the Title III and V programs.
Similarly, the appropriators partially restored funding for the Perkins Act Basic State Grants, providing an increase of $53 million over the FY 2013 post-sequester level. However, funding for adult education state grants remained frozen at the post-sequester level, perhaps the most disappointing result in this legislation.
There are several policy provisions in the legislation including one that directs the Department of Education to provide Congress with more information about Pell Grant recipients’ enrollment and graduation rates. Congress is interested in minimizing the regulatory burden for Pell reporting on institutions but wants more information about nontraditional and transfer students as well as recommendations on how to improve Pell recipients’ completion rates. There is also language in the bill requiring a more comprehensive study on the burden that federal reporting and regulations impose on colleges and universities.
Department of Labor
The Workforce Investment Act adult, dislocated worker, and youth formula grants to states fared relatively well, recouping nearly all of their sequester cuts, resulting in funding slightly below the FY 2013 pre-sequester totals. Of course, these programs have all received funding cuts of 10% to 15% since FY 2010. The Workforce Innovation Fund and most other national programs fared similarly. Funding for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College to Career Training (TAACCCT) program is not provided through this legislation, as it is mandatory funding, but the bill does contain a provision allowing the Department of Labor to use up to 3% of the FY 2014 TAACCCT funds for evaluation and technical assistance. As a mandatory program, the TAACCCT program is subject to a 7.2% sequester cut in FY 2014.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
The legislation funds the NSF at $7.2 billion, a decrease of $82 million from the pre-sequester FY 2013 enacted level. Funding for the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program was provided at the President’s requested level of $64 billion, essentially reversing the FY 2013 sequester cut and restoring the program to the level where it has been the last few years.