Federal Budget Uncertainty Casts Doubt on the Fate of Federal Work-Study, Funding for Other Higher Ed Programs
September 08, 2023

​After a monthlong break, the Senate and House returned to work with a looming deadline to fund the federal government for the upcoming fiscal year by Sept. 30. The White House has called on Congress to pass a short-term spending bill—a continuing resolution—to avoid a government shutdown while lawmakers try to reach a compromise. It’s unclear right now if that will happen.

A couple of weeks after President Biden and House Republicans struck the debt ceiling deal last May, the House Appropriations Committee adopted by a party-line vote a $1.47 trillion discretionary spending measure for FY 2024, which begins Oct. 1. This is about $120 billion below the $1.59 trillion the president and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) negotiated in their debt ceiling compromise.

The disagreement sets up yet another showdown as Congress attempts to pass 12 appropriations bills before the fiscal year ends. If it fails to do so, some federal agencies could be forced to close or operate with limited funding. All 12 appropriations bills must be approved before Jan. 1, 2024, to avoid a forced 1 percent cut to all agencies under the debt ceiling deal.

Beyond a possible shutdown, there is yet more at stake in the details of the individual funding bills for education that will eventually be enacted in some form.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved its FY 2024 Labor-HHS-Education bill in July, increasing discretionary funds for the Department of Education by about $370 million over the current fiscal year to $79.6 billion. This total is at least $12 billion more than the House bill, according to Inside Higher Ed.

The Senate bill would increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $250 (from $7,395 to $7,645) for the 2024-25 academic year and would level-fund other programs aimed at supporting low-income students, such as TRIO and GEAR UP. However, it makes cuts to critical programs like Federal Work-Study (FWS) and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), which would be reduced by $10 million each. The Senate bill does include more funding for research—for example, the National Institutes of Health would get a nearly $1 billion increase for FY 2024 over the $49 billion it received for FY 2023.

The House bill, which has not yet been approved by the full House Committee on Appropriations, is simply unacceptable. House Republicans—who would like to make deeper cuts than those called for in the debt ceiling deal negotiated by President Biden and House Republicans in May—released a draft plan last month that would cut billions from the Education Department, eliminating FWS and FSEOG altogether. It would maintain the maximum Pell Grant award at $7,395 and make deep cuts and further eliminations to a range of other programs that benefit students and institutions.

Contact Your Lawmakers to Save Student Aid

The higher education association community believes that House appropriators should make changes before the full appropriations committee votes on this bill in September, and if changes are not made, lawmakers should reject the measure.

The Student Aid Alliance has drafted a message about these cuts and built a form you can use to quickly and easily write to members of Congress. Please share these resources as appropriate and reach out to your members of Congress as soon as possible—timing is critical for these much-needed student aid programs.

Contact Congress to Oppose Cuts to Student Aid

write your lawmakers

A Brief Guide to the Federal Budget and Appropriations Process

Read More