A Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee Tuesday approved a $68.5 billion Education Department (ED) budget for FY 2013, including a slight hike to the maximum Pell Grant but excluding money for President Obama’s proposed higher education “Race to the Top” initiative.
The education funding is included in a $158.8 billion overall spending bill for education, labor and health programs. The measure passed by a 10-7 party-line vote, with Republicans objecting to money included in the bill to implement parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care overhaul.
The overall bill is $2 billion more than current funding for the combined programs, approximately what President Obama requested in his 2013 budget proposal. But the $68.5 billion in education funding fell below the $69.8 billion requested by the president in his proposed 2013 budget.
Still, the maximum Pell Grant would increase by $85 to $5,635 under the measure. The bill also allocates $40 million for the president’s proposed First in the World initiative, a competitive grant program to encourage institutions to experiment with ways to restrain tuition growth, and allocates $44.8 million for the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education, or ARPA-ED. Funding for the National Institutes of Health would increase by $100 million to $30.7 billion.
The bill contains only level funding for most other student financial aid programs, such as Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants and Federal Work-Study Grants. And the spending measure does not contain the $1 billion requested by the White House for a higher education “Race to the Top” initiative modeled after the K-12 program that uses competitive grants to encourage performance improvements from local school systems.
A number of policy provisions also were included in the bill. Two of these proposals were included in the president’s budget—one that eliminates eligibility for subsidized Stafford loans for new borrowers enrolled beyond 150 percent of their program’s length, and another that reduces the subsidy paid by the government to guaranty agencies for rehabilitating defaulted loans.
The legislation also includes two provisions that appear to target for-profit colleges but would apply to all institutions. One bans institutions from using federal dollars on “marketing, recruitment and advertising,” while the other eliminates the use of room and board in the cost of attendance calculation for Pell Grant eligibility for distance education students.
The measure is headed for a full committee vote on Thursday.
In other appropriations news, ACE and other higher education organizations are urging the Senate to support full funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and oppose a provision that bans funding for political science programs in the House-passed version of the spending bill for the departments of Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies.
In a letter sent Monday to senators, ACE President Molly Corbett Broad and two dozen other organizations said, “We urge you to support funding for the NSF and to vote against any proposals to reduce its funding or restrict NSF support for political or other sciences.”
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