The House Labor, HHS and Education appropriations subcommittee has released its FY 2018 appropriations bill, which it will write on July 13. Overall, the draft bill includes $156 billion in discretionary funding, $5 billion below last year’s level. With so much less funding to work with, there are numerous cuts to community college priority programs. In general, however, the cuts are less severe than those proposed in the Trump administration’s FY 2018 budget.
The full House appropriations committee is expected to take up and approve the bill next week, but after that its fate is uncertain. The Senate version of the legislation is on a slower track. The Senate Labor, HHS and Education appropriations subcommittee will be allocated greater funding than its House counterpart in the initial markup process.
There is growing bipartisan support for a budget deal that would raise funding caps for defense and non-defense spending, similar to two deals that have raised the caps for the last four years. Should that happen, the appropriations subcommittees would be provided with revised spending allocations and spending bills would be revised accordingly. Consequently, the House measure is widely expected to be the low mark for final FY 18 funding, though nothing is guaranteed at this point.
Department of Education
The bill cuts overall funding for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) by $2.4 billion, about 3.5% from last year’s level. The cut grows to $4 billion when a rescission from the Pell Grant surplus is taken into account (see below). Funding for many ED programs is not yet available because specific appropriations levels are not generally released until the full appropriations committee markup.
The bill level-funds current Pell Grant program appropriations and maintains the maximum grant of $5,920. However, the subcommittee would rescind $3.3 billion from the Pell Grant surplus, which totals $8.5 billion for FY 18. While this rescission is slightly smaller than the $3.9 billion rescission proposed by President Trump, it would be a significant blow to the program. Ensuring that this mammoth rescission is not ultimately passed will be a focal point of AACC advocacy as the appropriations process unfolds.
The bill rejects the administration’s proposed cuts to the Perkins Career and Technical Education and Adult Education programs by level-funding them. The bill contains unspecified cuts of approximately $87 million to higher education programs, once increases to TRIO and GEAR UP are taken into account.
Department of Labor
The bill cuts the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration by $1.5 billion (to $8.5 billion), about two-thirds of the cuts proposed by the administration. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act adult, dislocated worker and youth programs are cut by $86 million. Funding for national programs is decreased by $210 million, including elimination of the $95 million apprenticeship program, a surprise given the administration’s recent emphasis on apprenticeships. The bill also rescinds $200 million in prior-year ETA funding.
On July 12, AACC and ACCT submitted joint comments on ED’s proposed negotiated rulemaking process on gainful employment and borrower defense repayment regulations. Following a review of the comments, the department will announce the specific topics to be addressed by the negotiated rulemaking committees as well as a request for nominations for individual negotiators for the committees.