Recently Passed Omnibus Spending Bill Includes Surprisingly Good News for Colleges and Universities

John W. Dysart, President – The Dysart Group

Congress has just passed an omnibus spending bill that increases education funding significantly. The funding increases came as a surprise to most higher education advocates. The President signed the bill despite a late threat to veto the package.

It has been interpreted as a rebuke to the plans and proposals of President Trump and The Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. The bill contains no cuts for education despite reduction recommendations by the administration and myriad “school choice” initiatives did not receive financial support. The bill did not include $250 million for school choice requested by DeVos.

  • The House approved the measure by a vote of 256-167, while the Senate passed it by a vote of 65-32.
  • The bill increases appropriations for education by $2.6 billion to $70.9 billion.
  • The maximum award for the Federal Pell Grant increased by $175 to $6,095.
  • Funding for Federal Campus-Based programs increased by $247 million.
  • Funding for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant increased by $107 million to a total of $840 million. It represents the largest annual increase for the program in history. The Secretary of Education had advocated eliminating funding for this program. Another proposal sought to absorb FSEOG into the Federal Work-Study program.
  • The Federal Work-Study program received an additional $140 million for a total of $1.13 billion. The administration had hoped to cut funding for this program by 50%.
  • The spending bill included $35 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
    • Support for Title III programs increased by 14%.
  • GEAR UP funding grew by $10 million to $60 million.
  • Support for TRIO increased by $60 million to a total of $1.01 billion.
  • The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program received $350 million.
  • Head Start support increased by $610 million.
  • The bill includes $15 million in increased funds for Hispanic Serving Institutions.
  • Funding for the Work Colleges Program increased by $1.2 million to nearly $10 million.

There is a need for even greater funding for education as such investments have stagnated in recent years. This is, however, a positive step in the right direction.