Both congressional appropriations committees approved legislation last week that would set spending levels for the nation's health, education and workforce programs, setting up likely showdowns with the Obama administration over budgets for some programs and policy initiatives that congressional Republicans want to stop.
The policy battles could trump any deliberations over the spending levels, as the Obama administration is likely to go to the mat over its efforts -- now backed by two federal courts -- to require vocational programs at for-profit and other colleges to prove that they provide "gainful employment" to their graduates.
The spending bills passed by both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees last week would block the gainful employment rule and a series of other regulatory efforts that the Obama Education Department has undertaken, but the administration has invested so much time and energy in the gainful rule that it is almost certain to fight any attempt to undermine it.
Whatever potential battles emerge over policy issues will not preclude shorter-term negotiations and debates over spending levels for various programs, as the competing House and Senate bills differ significantly on numerous fronts from the Obama administration's preferred budget levels and, to a lesser extent, from each other, as seen in the table below.
To the satisfaction of higher education groups, both spending bills would increase spending on the National Institutes of Health beyond the $1 billion increase requested by President Obama, with the Senate adding a full billion dollars on top of that.
College leaders are much less happy about a proposal to use $300 million (in the Senate bill) and $370 million (in the House bill) in surplus funds from the Pell Grant program for other purposes, even though the maximum Pell Grant would rise to $5,915 under both bills.
The table below shows proposed spending levels for many key federal programs for higher education, based on the recently passed House and Senate bills for the Departments of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, and related agencies.
2016 Spending Plans for Education, Health and Labor Programs
|State Job Training Grants / Adults||$776,736||$815,556||$776,736||$737,000|
|Student Financial Assistance|
|Maximum Pell Grant||$5,715||5,915||5,915||5,915|
|Cut to Pell Grant Surplus||-370,000||-300,000|
|Supplemental Ed Opportunity Grant||733,130||733,130||733,130||704,000|
|Support for Institutions|
|Promoting Postbacc Opportunities for Hispanic Americans||8,992||10,565||9,172||8,722|
|Strengthening Historically Black Colleges||227,524||227,524||232,074||220,698|
|Strengthening Historically Black Graduate Institutions||58,840||58,840||60,017||57,075|
|Strengthening Predominantly Black Institutions||9,244||9,244||9,429||8,967|
|Strengthening Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving||12,833||12,833||13,090||12,448|
|Strengthening Native American-Serving Nontribal||3,113||3,113||3,175||3,020|
|Strengthening Tribal Colleges||25,662||25,662||30,000||24,892|
|Tribally Controlled Postsec Voc/Tech Institutions||7,705||7,705||8,705||7,705|
|National Technical Institute for the Deaf||67,016||67,016||68,016||69,016|
|HBCU Capital Financing||19,430||19,436||19,430||19,430|
|Other Education Programs|
|International Education and Foreign Language||72,164||76,164||72,164||46,945|
|Fund for the Improvement of Postsec Ed||67,775||200,000||0||0|
|Postsec Program for Students with Intellectual Disabilities||11,800||11,800||11,800||10,384|
|Minority Science and Engineering Improvement||8,971||8,971||8,971||8,971|
|Federal TRIO Programs||839,752||859,752||900,000||839,752|
|Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need||29,293||29,293||25,075||20,000|
|Teacher Quality Partnerships||40,592||0||0||34,000|
|Child Care Access Means Parents in School||15,134||15,134||15,134||0|
|Office for Civil Rights||100,000||130,000||100,000||100,000|
|Career Training State Grants||1,117,598||1,317,598||1,117,598||1,117,598|
|National Institutes of Health||30,084,000||31,084,000||31,184,000||32,084,000|
|Health Workforce Training||751,600||856,820||742,670||720,970|
Read more by
Today’s News from Inside Higher Ed
Inside Higher Ed’s Quick Takes
What Others Are Reading