Congressional negotiators reached an agreement Sunday night on a $1 trillion-plus spending bill that would fund the federal government through September. Both the House and Senate are expected to vote on the measure by the end of the week, when the latest stop-gap bill expires.
The deal contains a provision restoring year-round Pell Grants—also known as “summer Pell”—which were cut due to cost in 2011. The bill calls for the same level of discretionary spending on the Pell Grant program this year. Because of mandatory funding increases, the maximum Pell grant award will increase $105 to $5,920 for the 2017-18 academic year.
Other federal financial aid programs would see either increases or level funding under the bill. The measure would increase funding for Federal TRIO Programs by $50 million and GEAR UP by $17 million.
The bill also includes a $2 billion funding boost for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Both the House and Senate had proposed significant increases for NIH in their original FY 2017 appropriations bills passed in committee last summer.
Other research programs also are slated for increases under the new measure, including $368 million for NASA; $56.8 million for the Office of Science and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy at the Department of Energy; $62 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and $8.7 million for the National Science Foundation.
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) would each receive a $2 million increase in funding over FY 2016.
President Trump has proposed cutting funding for NIH by 20 percent in his “skinny” budget plan for FY 2018 released in March, and requested eliminating NEH and NEA in their entirety.
ACE and other higher education associations have been advocating since the FY 2017 budget cycle began for strengthening the Pell program, the nation’s most important investment in higher education, as well as for protecting other aid programs and the federal government’s investment in research (click here and here for the most recent letters on these issues).
“The budget agreement released today demonstrates strong, bipartisan support for the students and families our colleges and universities serve, and for the advancement of medical and scientific research,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad in a statement on the spending plan. “We applaud congressional leaders for their clear commitment to these important priorities . . . There is no better investment in our country’s future prosperity than expanding federal student aid and research funding and we look forward to the swift enactment of this measure.”