WASHINGTON -- A Senate subcommittee approved a $68.5 billion budget for the Education Department for fiscal year 2013 on Tuesday, funding that would increase the maximum Pell Grant but falls short of the Obama administration’s budget request from earlier this year. The legislation would also increase the budget for the National Institutes of Health.
The measure also includes a provision -- aimed at for-profit colleges but applied broadly -- that would prohibit colleges or universities from using federal funds on "marketing, recruitment and advertising."
The Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies voted in favor of the budget 10-7, along party lines. The vote is the first step in a process that is expected to take several months: while overall budget spending levels were set in the deal to raise the debt ceiling last August, the House of Representatives has proposed deeper cuts, and few expect a deal on spending for next fiscal year until after the elections in November.
The Senate bill would increase the maximum Pell Grant by $85, to $5,635, an inflationary increase built in during the switch to direct student lending two years ago. The bill would also spend $40 million on an initiative proposed by the Obama administration to encourage innovation at colleges, known as First in the World and administered through the Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education.
The budget would also create a new agency, known as ARPA-ED, intended for research and development in education at the elementary, secondary and postsecondary levels -- another proposal put forward by the Obama administration in January. Its budget would be set at $44.8 million.
But over all, the budget allocation falls short of the president’s $69.8 billion request. While full details were not yet available, at least one proposed program was conspicuously absent from a subcommittee summary distributed Tuesday: a $1 billion Race to the Top for higher education. The president proposed such a program, modeled after the K-12 competition and intended to use federal dollars to encourage states to keep college affordable, in January. While the Education Department budget includes a Race to the Top for early childhood education, a college counterpart goes unmentioned.
The budget would also increase funding for the National Institutes of Health by $100 million, an increase of less than 1 percent but above the president’s budget request, which would have flat-funded the agency.
A summary of the provision on spending money on marketing and recruiting states: "At a time when budgets are tight and students and families across the Nation are struggling, taxpayer dollars that are intended for higher education should be focused on helping low- and middle-income students pursue an academic degree."
A full committee vote on the measure, as well as more details on the budget, are expected Thursday.