Budget Reconciliation: Build Back Better Act Introduced

On October 28, President Joseph Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and the House Leadership released the much-anticipated framework for the Budget Reconciliation: Build Back Better Act of 2021 (H.R. 5376). Following the release of the framework, the legislation was introduced and referred to the House Rules Committee for consideration and debate. Here is a section-by-section analysis of the legislation.

Following the adjournment of the House Rules Committee meeting, negotiations continued between the House Leadership, the House Progressive Caucus, and Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) concerning the $1.75 trillion budget package. At this time, however, it remains uncertain as to when the legislation will come to the House floor for a vote.

The latest version of the budget package includes $40 billion in federal funding for higher education and workforce training programs. Specifically, the budget package includes the following higher education provisions:

  • Expands federal student aid eligibility for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients;
  • Provides $471 million in federal funding for Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities for fiscal years 2022-2026;
  • Provides $141 million for Tribal Colleges and Universities for fiscal years 2022-2026; and
  • Provides $71 million for Alaskan-Native Serving Institutions, $24 million for Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions and Native American-serving nontribal institutions for fiscal years 2022-2026.

The budget package also expands the research capacity at U.S. colleges and universities. Specifically, the budget package includes the following research development provisions:

  • $3 billion would be provided to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Minority-Serving Institutions to improve research and development infrastructure;
  • $75 million for the National Institutes of Health to maintain and expand programs to increase research capacity at Minority-Serving Institutions;
  • $200 million for the National Science Foundation for research capacity building at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving institutions, and other Minority-Serving Institutions;
  • $100 million for academic research facilities modernization and research instrumentation, including construction, upgrade, renovation, or repair of research infrastructure at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving institutions, and other Minority-Serving Institutions; and
  • $1.2 billion in National Science Foundation core research, including funding new and existing research awards, traineeships, scholarships, and fellowships.

House Education and Labor Subcommittee Hearing on the Office of Federal Student Aid

On October 27, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment held a hearing on examining the policies and priorities of the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) within the Department of Education. Subcommittee Chair Frederica Wilson (D-FL) mentioned in her opening statement, “The upcoming return to loan repayment presents a monumental task for FSA and student loan servicers. We must ensure that students receive the education and support they need to begin repaying. They’re going to need a lot of support to help transition. Many borrowers may be unsure of their rights and responsibilities or are experiencing continued financial hardship caused by this looming pandemic, which may entitle them to change their repayment plan. We have to monitor this very carefully.”


Richard Cordray, the chief operating officer of FSA mentioned the overhaul of Public Service Loan Forgiveness currently underway by the Department of Education. He stated in his testimony, “We intend finally to fulfill the program’s promise to secure loan relief for servicemembers, teachers, nurses, police, firefighters, and others who have chosen to put community over self.”


A possible continuing resolution would lead to the elimination of the proposed increases to programs that benefit graduate education and research. Programs that would be affected include: the Department of Education’s Federal Work-Study program; the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need program; international education and foreign language studies; and federally funded fundamental scientific research which is conducted at the nation’s universities.

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing

On October 27, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing on improving veterans’ employment, education, and home loan opportunities. During the hearing, Members of Congress spoke about the education problems veterans’ experience. In a committee press release, Chairman John Tester (D-MT) questioned the witnesses extensively about what can be done to improve assistance and support to student veterans. Specifically, the press release mentioned Senator Tester’s “work to modernize and strengthen education benefits for veterans and their families, starting with the Harry W. Colmery Act in 2017 (later known as the Forever GI Bill), which eliminated the 15-year window for veterans to use their GI Bill benefits.”


While all the witnesses gave important and compelling testimony, Justin Monk, a policy associate from the Student Veterans of America underscored the need to extend emergency protection for student veterans, service members, and their families. Last year, during the height of the pandemic, Congress passed the Isakson-Roe Act and THRIVE Act. Both pieces of legislation provided important protections for student veterans but need slight technical corrections. In the past month, CGS and other higher education associations sent this letter to Chairman Tester, Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS), and the entire committee. CGS and the broader higher education community also sent letters to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, in which we thanked them for the work done on making technical corrections to the abovementioned legislation. Specifically, the letters thanked the committee for their consideration of legislation that would “extend certain COVID-related flexibilities granted to the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the wake of the pandemic.” As stated in the letters, “Without this extension, veterans could see their benefits reduced or cut off if, for example, their institution is forced to move instruction online due to the pandemic. Extending these provisions now will allow the secretary to make adjustments as needed and ensure that veterans’ benefits are not disrupted.” Here are the thank you letters for H.R. 5509 and H.R. 5545.

National Endowment for the Humanities Begins Application Review Process

Throughout the month of November, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will host 26 meetings of its Humanities Panel. The purpose of these meetings is to review and evaluate applications for financial assistance under the National Foundation for the Arts and Humanities. For more information on the dates and times of these meetings, please see the meeting notice that was published in the Federal Register.


NEH’s application review process begins with the panel review of each application and advises the agency about its merits. NEH staff then synthesize the results for review by the National Council on the Humanities. The Council then advises the Chairman of NEH on applications of merit, with the Chairman making all funding decisions. A thorough review of the application process can be found here.

DHS I-9 Employment Eligibility Form

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a request for public input on October 26 regarding the I-9 form. The agency is seeking input from the public regarding document examination practices associated with the Employment Eligibility Verification form (I-9) to better understand employers’ and employees’ experiences with this process and to examine the impacts of remote document examination conducted during the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. DHS especially seeks to understand the potential costs and benefits of allowing for future remote document examination flexibilities. All written comments are due by December 27, 2021.