House Appropriators, Cardona Discuss Biden’s Education Budget Request

On May 5, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies regarding the President’s requested budget for the Department of Education in Fiscal Year 2022. The top-line budget request would increase department funding by roughly $30 billion, more than 40 percent. Additionally, HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs would see a $600 million increase in funding. Pell Grants would see a $3 billion increase, raising the maximum award by $400 to $6,895 and expanded eligibility to include Dreamers, among other priorities.

Secretary Cardona emphasized the importance of diversity and equitable access to education as well as his intent to introduce policies that support students and educators in the wake of COVID-19. In one line of questioning, the Secretary noted the benefits of expanding unused semesters of Pell support for graduate and other postsecondary degrees. This proposal is a policy solution that CGS supported in the bipartisan Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act (H.R. 3334), which was first introduced in the 116th Congress and is expected to be reintroduced. Congresswoman Lois Frankel (D-FL) questioned Secretary Cardona on the Department of Education’s progress in reviewing and rewriting Title IX regulations, which dictates how institutions handle incidents of sexual harassment and assault. He noted the department is currently receiving comments from the public to gather more information for future action.

CGS has created a summary of graduate education and research provisions in President Biden’s April discretionary funding request. The White House plans to release a more detailed budget proposal in the coming weeks. All CGS advocacy resources for Fiscal year 2022 funding are available here.

House Science Committee Investigates the Future of U.S. Innovation

On May 6, the House Science Committee held a hearing, National Science Foundation: Advancing Research for the Future of U.S. Innovation Part II (Part I available here). The hearing focused on the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) role in advancing U.S. innovation in science and technology. Much of the conversation centered on the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Future Act (H.R. 2225), which CGS endorsed earlier this week. The NSF for the Future Act would make meaningful improvements to graduate STEM education and research training.


The witness panel included Dr. Roger M. Wakimoto, vice chancellor for research and creative activities at the University of California, Los Angeles; Ms. Gabriela Cruz Thompson, director of university research and collaboration at Intel Labs, Intel Corporation; Dr. Mahmud Farooque, associate director of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes and DC and clinical associate professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University; Dr. Gerald Blazey, vice president for research and innovation partnerships at Northern Illinois University; and Dr. P. Barry Butler, president of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.


Lawmakers outlined NSF’s future responsibilities, including addressing threats to research security and recruiting diverse U.S. talent by engaging scientists at an early age. Dr. Wakimoto emphasized the importance of engaging young scientists in curiosity-driven, basic research to ensure the steady pace of discovery that guarantees innovation and problem solving. Lawmakers noted the importance of strategically expanding the U.S. research enterprise and suggested as possible legislative solutions that new funding be tied to targeted measures and safeguards be implemented to ensure a more equitable spread of grants.


The witnesses agreed that NSF must continue fostering relationships between industry leaders and institutions to solidify effective workforce training. Congressman Michael Waltz (R-FL) inquired as to how NSF can better invest in and shape graduate student mentorship. Dr. Butler and Dr. Blazey emphasized the importance of graduate students gaining real world experience to build relationships, work in a non-academic setting, and forge connections between their academic research and industry work. Congresswoman Deborah Ross (D-NC) asked the witnesses how U.S. institutions can be more inviting to international students. Dr. Farooque noted that many of these scholars would be more likely to remain in the U.S. if there were more opportunities for socially conscious work.

Cordray Selected to Lead Office of Federal Student Aid

On May 3, the Department of Education selected Richard Cordray to serve as chief operating officer of Federal Student Aid. Formerly the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Attorney General of Ohio, Cordray will oversee the department’s student financial assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, including grants, work-study, and loans for students. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona praised Cordray, citing his success as a “public servant who can tackle big challenges and get results.” Managing the call for widespread student debt cancellation, the restart of monthly loan payments, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid changes that the 116th Congress enacted are among the high priority issues on Cordray’s agenda. In an interview with Politico, Cordray expressed his eagerness to take on a job focused on boosting access to higher education that is so “integral to people’s success and chances in life.”

NSF and NASA Collaborate to Increase Diversity in Engineering

On April 26, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) formalized an agreement to establish collaborative efforts to broaden participation in engineering. The agencies plan to expand opportunities for institutions and organizations to engage students and researchers through NSF and NASA programs. NASA’s Minority University Research and Education program will work with NSF’s Broadening Participation in Engineering and NSF INCLUDES programs, all of which seek to broaden participation in STEM fields for historically underrepresented groups through a wide variety of initiatives and research. The agencies will collaborate on a common agenda and joint review of proposals. The agreement also provides more flexibility to support research, education, and workforce development proposals of mutual interest to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in engineering. The full statement is available here.

What Do Biden’s First 100 Days Signal for Graduate Education?

In the latest edition of CGS’s GradEdge newsletter, CGS Public Policy and Government Affairs team examined what President Biden’s initial 100 days indicates for the future of graduate education and research. Considering his recent actions on immigration, COVID-19 recovery, higher education policy, and Biden’s opening fiscal year 2022 budget request, President Biden’s first 100 days in office demonstrate the new Administration’s potential to implement policies that bolster higher education institutions and students. The full article is available here. The CGS Government Affairs team first considered how the Biden administration could reshape and revitalize graduate education in November 2020.