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TUESDAY BUZZ: Congressional Negotiators Release Omnibus Spending Bill

January 14, 2014


Includes Boost for NIH, Student Aid

UPDATE (Jan. 15): The House voted 359 to 67 this afternoon to pass the omnibus spending bill. It now goes to the Senate, where approval is expected. 

Congressional negotiators on Monday released details on the final FY 2014 omnibus spending package, which would fund all federal government agencies through Sept. 30. Among the higher education provisions in the $1.1 trillion bill are increases for research and student aid programs that begin to restore spending to pre-sequestration levels.

The measure, known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, puts specifics on the budget agreement the House and Senate passed in December. That deal set the discretionary spending level for FY 2014 at about halfway between the relatively high number originally approved by the Senate and the much lower number adopted by the House.

As Politico’s Morning Education points out, the omnibus bill would not quite bring education funding to pre-sequester levels, but it would come close. The $67 billion in discretionary funding for education is roughly $811 million less than in FY 2012.

“Campuses should be pleased with how colleges and universities fared in the omnibus,” said Jon Fansmith, director of government relations at ACE. “While research funding is still far below recent levels, overall, higher education programs did well relative to many other areas of the budget.”

Among the higher education provisions in the bill:

  • The National Institutes of Health would receive an increase of $1 billion over FY 2013, for a total of $29. 9 billion. Sequestration cuts eliminated $1.55 billion from NIH in 2013. 

  • The National Science Foundation would receive an increase of $287 million over FY 2013, for a total of $7.2 billion. The total still leaves the agency’s funding about $69 million lower than it was before sequestration.

  • The Pell Grant Program would be funded at last year’s level, but increases in mandatory spending are expected to bump up the maximum award next year by $85, to $5,730. Under the proposal, the Education Department also would be required to provide Congress with more information about enrollment and graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients.

  • The Federal Work-Study program budget would increase by $49 million to a total of $975 million, just barely below pre-sequestration levels.

  • The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program would increase by $37 million to a total of $733 million, just $2 million below pre-sequestration levels.

  • Workforce Investment Act grants would receive $2.6 billion, $121 million more than in FY 2013. These state grants, administered by the Department of Labor, are for job training and assistance for low-income workers.

  • The Obama administration’s “First in the World” initiative would be funded at $75 million. The program would give grants to colleges pursuing innovative strategies aimed at improving educational outcomes and efficiency.

  • Congressional appropriators also set aside $1 million for a National Research Council study on the impact of federal regulations and reporting requirements on colleges and universities.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the measure by Sunday. Most of the government has been operating at FY 2013 levels since Oct. 1, 2013, when FY 2014 began.

Also see:  

Accord on Appropriations​ 
Inside Higher Ed

Budget Agreement Would Give NIH and Pell Grants a Boost​
The Chronicle of Higher Education (sub. req.)

Other ACE News


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