Washington Insights & Highlights
May 10, 2019
Congressional Update

FY 2020 Education and Research Funding Bill Clears House Committee

On Wednesday, May 8, the full House Appropriations Committee marked-up and reported out its Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) spending bill. The measure funds the Department of Education at $75.9 billion, $4.4 billion above FY 2019 and $11.9 billion above the President’s FY 2020 budget request. Funding levels for programs and agencies of importance to higher education and research, include:

  • Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN): $24.05 million—$1 million above FY 2019; $24.05 million above the President’s FY 2020 budget request
  • Federal Work Study: $1.4 billion—$304 million above the FY 2019; $934 million above the President’s FY 2020 request
  • Federal TRIO programs: $1.1 billion—$100 million above FY 2019; $210 million above the President’s FY 2020 budget request
  • Pell Grant: $6,345 for the maximum Pell Grant—an increase of $150 above FY 2019 and the President’s FY 2020 budget request
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF): $350 million for the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF); same level as the previous two years
  • International Education and Foreign Languages Studies program (Title VI): $80.4 million—$15.29 million above FY 2019; $80.4 million above President’s FY 2020 budget request
  • Fulbright-Hayes: $8.73 million—$1.67 million above FY 2019; $8.73 million above the President’s FY 2020 budget request
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): $41.08 billion—$2 billion above FY 2019; $6.9 billion above the President’s FY 2020 budget request
  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Title VII and Title VIII: $854.9 million—$108.3 million above FY 2019; $550.2 above the President’s FY 2020 budget request
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): $358.2 million—$20.2 million above FY 2019; $358.2 million above the President’s FY 2020 budget request

CGS submitted a letter and signed onto a higher education community letter to committee leadership in support of the bill. CGS also has updated it FY 2020 Appropriations chart to reflect the changes from this week’s markup. Further updates will be posted as the committee continues to complete its work.

On Friday, May 10, the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee also marked up its FY 2020 spending bill, which would provide $730 million for educational and cultural exchange programs, an increase of $29 million above FY 2019 and $420 million above the President’s budget request. The full committee will consider the bill next week.

Additionally, as part of this week’s markups, the committee passed the sub-allocations under which each of the remaining subcommittees will draft their spending bills. House leadership has indicated that their goal is to pass all 12 appropriations measures through the chamber by the end of June, leaving enough time to negotiate with the Senate prior to the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.

Budget hearings also continued this week. On Wednesday, May 8, the House Science Committee heard testimony on the FY 2020 budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Lawmakers, from both parties, expressed concerns with proposed cuts, citing NSF’s critical role in scientific innovation and in training the next generation of scientists, including through the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Part of the discussion also focused on the need to balance national security issues with a free flow of academic exchange. NSF Director Dr. France Cordova indicated that the agency is working with its Office of the Inspector General to address these concerns and any potential vulnerabilities.

On Thursday, May 9, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on the Department of Energy’s FY 2020 budget where members of the panel also pushed back against proposed funding decreases to science and research programs in the Office of Science as well as the elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E).

House Committee Continues Series of HEA Hearings

On Thursday, May 9, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education held a third hearing in its series aimed at Higher Education Act Reauthorization, with the focus being on college completion. While the majority of the discussion centered on undergraduate issues, areas of interest to graduate education included: the importance of Federal TRIO programs; reforms to the Federal Work Study program to better align academic and work experience; and improved student loan counseling, which CGS continues to advocate for. CGS also submitted a statement for the hearing record urging the committee to consider allowing graduate students, who remain income-eligible, to utilize remaining semesters of Pell Grants towards a graduate degree, as a way to encourage both undergraduate and graduate completion.

House Science Committee Focuses on Diversity in STEM

On Tuesday, May 7, House Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced the STEM opportunities Act (H.R. 2528) which would help federal science agencies and institutions of higher education identify and overcome barriers that have limited the inclusion of women and minorities in the STEM fields. The bill would implement a series of actions focused on addressing these disparities, including requiring more data collection on demographics of recipients of federal research funds, providing colleges and universities with grant opportunities for mentoring underrepresented groups in STEM, and issuing federal guidance on ways to reduce implicit bias in the federal research grant review process.

On Thursday, May 9, the Science Committee held a hearing focused on this legislation, during which both lawmakers and witnesses reiterated the importance diversifying STEM education—from the K-12 through postsecondary level—to the economy and U.S. global competitiveness. Other areas of discussion included the need to diversify the faculty to help ensure more representation in PhD programs, building better partnerships between research universities and community colleges as a pathway for more underrepresented groups into graduate school, and ways to address sexual harassment in the STEM fields.

Bill Would Eliminate Student Loan Interest

Last week, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Leveraging Opportunities for Americans Now (LOAN) Act (S. 1292), which would eliminate interest on federal student loans, replacing it with a one-time, non-compounding financing fee. The fee would be paid over the full lifetime of the loan and not increase over time. The bill would also automatically place borrowers into an income-based repayment (IBR) plan, where they pay 10 percent of their earnings in excess of $10,000. The standard 10-year repayment option would remain, although it would no longer be the default.

More Information Sought on FSA’s Work

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is asking the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) to provide a detailed plan for how it will oversee the federal student loan and loan servicing portfolio. The request covers a range of topics under FSA’s purview, including an Inspector General’s report on loan servicers oversight, the department’s decision to terminate its data-sharing agreement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the implementation of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and borrower defense to repayment claims.

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Lauren Inouye
Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs
Kenneth Polishchuk
Senior Manager of Public Policy and Government Affairs
Council of Graduate Schools
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