FY 2024 Appropriations: Senate Hearing on Department of Education Funding

On Wednesday, May 11, the Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee held a hearing on the Biden Administration’s fiscal year 2024 budget request for the U.S. Department of Education. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona was the sole witness for the hearing. Although the hearing focused primarily on elementary and secondary education, subcommittee members mentioned the importance of in investing in higher education as well as student loan repayment.

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Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee Patty Murray (D-WA) said in a statement, “If we want to keep on the cutting edge of discovery—we have to support the next generation of researchers—we have to light that spark of curiosity and invest in higher education institutions that help it burn bright. If we want to have a strong workforce—we have to make sure everyone can pursue a high-quality education and career training opportunities.”

In Secretary Cardona’s testimony, he mentioned provisions in the fiscal year 2024 budget proposal that would benefit graduate education and graduate students. First, he mentioned providing $150 million for a new School and Campus-Based Mental Health Service program to develop strategies to address student mental health needs and build the pipeline of mental health professionals, who predominately need a graduate degree. Secretary Cardona also mentioned a $20 million increase to institutions providing affordable childcare for student parents with low income through the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program and increases to Federal TRIO programs, including the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, which prepares underserved undergraduate students for doctoral study. Secretary Cardona’s full testimony can be found here.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee is scheduled to have a hearing on May 16 regarding the policies and priorities of the U.S. Department of Education. Secretary Cardona will testify at that hearing. Please visit the CGS Budget and Appropriations page for more information on the president’s annual budget request to Congress and funding for programs impacting graduate education.

Department of Education Updates College Scorecard

In late April, the U.S. Department of Education announced new updates to the College Scorecard. The College Scorecard is a free online tool to help students of all ages, families, educators, counselors, and other college access professionals make data-informed decisions when choosing a college or university to attend.

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New features of the College Scorecard include data on the median earnings of former graduates four years after completion of their degree, as well as new demographic data including race/ethnicity data for college staff. New information also includes data for prospective graduate students on fields of study, earnings, and student debt trends. The announcement mentions that by providing new data regarding graduate programs, prospective students can have easier access to which institutions leave students better off after attending.

House Education Committee Markup to Reverse Debt Relief Plan

On Wednesday, May 10, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a markup on H.J. Res. 45, a resolution to reverse the federal student loan payment pause and block President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. The resolution would use authority under the Congressional Review Act to eliminate the Administration’s plans for student loan forgiveness. The resolution passed on a party-line vote, 24-18.

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Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said in her opening statement, “If passed through both chambers, the joint resolution being debated today would nullify President Biden’s radical plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt by executive fiat. For two years, President Biden has attempted to push a free college agenda through radical regulations including income-driven repayment, executive actions like blanket cancellation, and his permanent pause on repayment. Student loan ‘forgiveness’ is nothing more than a transfer of wealth from those who willingly took on debt to those who did not or had the grit to pay off their loans.” You can view Chair Foxx’s full opening remarks here.

In response, Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) focused on the importance of providing debt relief and making college more affordable. Ranking Member Scott said in his opening remarks, “As you have mentioned, Madam Chair, we need to look forward and we have introduced legislation, such as the LOAN Act, which lowers the cost of college by significantly increasing the Pell Grant and reducing the interest on student loans. Those are two of the major factors in that bill, so that would help students in the future. The bottom line is that we have a responsibility to strengthen support for those seeking a college degree—not because everybody should be forced to get one—but, for those who want a college degree, they should have access to that opportunity.” You can view Ranking Member Scott’s full opening remarks here.

CGS joined 260 organizations in response to the Congressional Review Act. The letter states, “These CRA efforts would immediately force tens of millions of borrowers into abrupt and unplanned repayment with devastating effects, including adding thousands of dollars of payments and interest onto their loan balances. It would also force the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to unwind loans forgiven under Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs for nurses, educators, servicemembers, and hundreds of thousands of other public service workers across the country.” You can view the full letter here.

On Tuesday, May 9, the U.S. Department of Education announced that due to the overhaul of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, more than 615,000 borrowers had the remaining balance of their loans forgiven. As mentioned in previous Washington Insights and Highlights Newsletters, the PSLF program allows public sector workers, who have paid their student loans for the last 10 years and have made 120 payments, to have the remaining balance of their student loans forgiven.

Happening Soon! National Science Foundation Grants Conference

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will hold its Spring 2023 Virtual Grants Conference during the week of June 5, 2023. The grants conference is designed to give new faculty, researchers, and administrators key insights into a wide range of current issues funded by the agency.

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NSF staff will provide up-to-date information about policies and procedures, specific funding opportunities and answer attendee questions. Highlights of the conference will include new programs and initiatives at the agency, proposal preparation, award management topics, and more. Along with core research funding, there are many programs at NSF that benefit graduate education. NSF’s Directorate for STEM Education administers programs such as the Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the Research Traineeship that provides master’s and doctoral degree seeking students in STEM fields with financial support.

If interested, you can register for the virtual grants conference here.

National Science Foundation Awards $43 Million in Regional Innovation Engines

Recently, the National Science Foundation announced the first-ever NSF Regional Innovation Engines. The agency awarded 44 teams consisting of universities, nonprofits, businesses, and other organizations $1 million per team for two years.

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According to the NSF press release, “These NSF Engines development awards will help organizations create connections and develop their local innovation ecosystem within two years to prepare a strong proposal for becoming a future NSF Engine, where they will have the opportunity to receive up to $160 million. NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said, “These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF’s vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of our nation.”

Department of Energy Announces New Awards for Grad Program

On May 1, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science announced the latest awards for the Graduate Student Research Program. They selected 87 graduate students from 33 states for the program, who will receive funds to conduct part of their thesis research at a DOE national laboratory. A list of the awardees, including their institutions and research areas for projects, can be found here.