House Committees Move Swiftly on FY22 Appropriations

On July 12, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies approved its fiscal year (FY) 2022 bill, which allocates $102.8 billion for the Department of Education, a 41 percent increase over the agency’s current funding that mirrors President Biden’s budget request. The bill also provides $49 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $6.5 billion above the FY21 enacted level. Of the NIH funding, $3 billion would establish the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health and provide an increase of $3.5 billion for the agency’s core funding.

The legislation would administer $3.43 billion for higher education programs, an increase of $889 million and $122 million above President Biden’s request. Among the key funding numbers, minority-serving institutions would receive $1.13 billion, a boost of $345 million over the enacted level; Federal Student Aid programs would receive $27.2 billion, a $2.64 billion increase, and the Pell Grant would receive a $400 boost, bringing the maximum award up to $6,895, the largest one-time increase to the program since 2009. Other notable provisions include the creation of a new pilot program, the Basic Needs Grant for college students to use on housing; food; transportation; and access to physical and mental health, and expanded eligibility for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients to access Pell Grants and other student financial assistance, including federal student loans. The full bill text is available here. On July 15, the full Committee is scheduled to consider the bill. On July 14, CGS joined a community letter in support of this appropriations legislation.

On July 12, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies approved its FY22 funding bill, which totals $81.6 billion, an increase of $10.2 billion or 14 percent above the enacted level.  Themes of confronting the climate crisis are interwoven throughout the legislation, which includes significant funding for climate resilience and research at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill would provide $25.04 billion for NASA, $1.77 billion above the FY21 enacted level, with $147 million designated for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement, an increase of $20 million above the enacted level, with the intent of strengthening the STEM pipeline.

NSF would receive $9.63 billion, an increase of $1.15 billion above the FY 2021 enacted level, to foster innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for climate science and sustainable research, as well as research on artificial intelligence, quantum information science, advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, among other critical areas.  Among the other notable provisions, Research and Related Activities would receive $7.7 billion, an increase of $785.97 million above the FY21 enacted level; and Education and Human Resources would receive $1.27 billion, an increase of $306.3 million above the enacted level, to help broaden participation in STEM research and STEM careers among underrepresented populations. A summary of the bill is available here. On July 15, the full Committee is scheduled to consider the bill.

On July 13, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY22 Homeland Security funding bill by vote of 33-24. Among the funding allocations, the bill includes $474.5 million for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an increase of $346.7 million over the FY21 level and $830.4 million for Science and Technology (S&T), an increase of $64.8 million above the FY21 enacted level and $7.5 million above the President’s request. Of the S&T funding, $45.8 million would go to University Centers of Excellence, an increase of $6.5 million above the enacted level and equal to the President’s request; and $7.7 million would be set aside for the Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Program, an increase of $2.5 million above the enacted level. The legislation also provides updates to policies on visas, including issuance of certain visas blocked by policies enacted during the Trump administration. Summaries of the amendments and the bill are available here. All CGS resources and requests for FY22 appropriations funding are available here.

Department of Education Student Aid Office Announces Appointments and Verification Changes

On July 12, the Department of Education announced five new leaders to join the department’s Student Aid Office. Sartaj Aleg will join the department as the senior advisor for management and will take on the Principal Deputy Chief Operating Officer portfolio, which oversees the enterprise finance, technology, and acquisitions functions. Kristen Donoghue joins the office as a senior advisor, focusing on oversight, compliance, and accountability of higher education institutions and improve loan forgiveness programs. Joining the department as an FSA ombudsman, Bonnie Latreille will be the first in this role to report directly to the chief operating officer. Colleen McGinnis will serve as FSA’s chief of staff and will advise the chief operating officer about FSA’s business activities, provide historical expertise, and coordinate priority initiatives. Joining as executive assistant to the chief operating officer is Stephanie Richo. Expanded details on each of the appointees are available through the department’s press release.


On July 13, the department announced temporary changes to the federal aid verification process for the 2021-2022 award year. Aid verification for the 2021-2022 application cycle will focus on identity theft and fraud. Originally, aid verification was required for a subset of Pell Grant recipients, a process that disproportionality burdens students from low-income backgrounds and resulted in barriers that prevented students from completing the process to receive their funds. Removing the barrier of this verification process for many aid recipients will likely relieve some of the enrollment declines higher education institutions are experiencing due to the pandemic and economic crises effecting Americans.

CGS Concludes the 2021 Virtual Summer Workshop

On July 14, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) concluded the final day and sessions of the 2021 Virtual Summer Workshop. The event offered rich discussions and conversations on a range of topics relevant to graduate education, including issues on mental health, structural racism in academia, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and public policy under the Biden administration. On July 13, Dr. Brian Kloeppel and Dr. Cari Moorhead shared the dean’s perspective on how campus leaders can support graduate student wellbeing; early career scientists whose research was disrupted due to COVID-19; efforts to diversify funding opportunities and provide high-quality mentoring and training programs; and international students as they return to campus. On July 15, those registered for the Summer Workshop will receive an email with instructions to access session recordings on the event website. Thank you to our presenters and attendees for a wonderful event.

NSF Continues Commitment to Fund Research and Increase Diversity in the Sciences

On July 12, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded its latest grants through the Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM). The NSF will invest over $30 million to strengthen partnerships and collaborations between minority-serving educational institutions and leading research facilities. The funds will support eight collaborative research teams across the U.S. and aim to increase diversity in cutting-edge materials research, education and professions. Support from the awards aims to bolster and motivate diverse cohorts of students into higher education and into rewarding careers, and many of the recipient institutions are CGS members.

Senate Committee Holds Hearing for Department of Education Nominees

On July 13, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on Department of Education nominees Catherine Lhamon to be assistant secretary of education for civil rights; Lisa Brown to be the department’s general counsel; and Roberto Rodríguez to be assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development. Committee members questioned Lhamon on Title IX regulations and protections for students with disabilities, among other topics. During the Obama administration, Lhamon oversaw the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Specifically, Senators pressed Lhamon on enforcement of current Title IX rules and the Biden administration’s potential interest in updating the regulations. Throughout her testimony, Lhamon emphasized the need to reimagine Title IX to serve all students, raising concerns about the courtroom style hearings and the implementation challenges that many higher education institutions are currently trying to manage. In June 2021, the Department of Education announced plans to issue new Title IX regulations in spring 2022 after holding virtual hearings to gather stakeholder feedback on the current regulations.


During Mr. Rodríguez’s testimony, he identified the effective implementation of the American Rescue Plan and addressed the need for increased support for mental health services and broadband infrastructure. During a line of questioning by Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) on closing racial gaps in education, Rodríguez outlined initiatives he would implement if confirmed, including increased support for Hispanic Serving Institutions; strengthening the pipeline for educators of color; and increasing training opportunities for workforce preparedness.

CIS Ombudsman Releases 2021 Annual Report

On June 30, Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman Phyllis A. Coven published the 2021 Annual Report on USCIS, which includes recommendations for ameliorating visa backlogs, unclear pandemic guidance, and poor coordination between USCIS and the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. The report notes major processing delays for Optional Practical Training and provides recommendations to improve coordination, including creating a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) working group specific to issues for international students. The report encourages the agency to modernize and continue digital processes that were successful during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CIS Ombudsman recommends that USCIS move away from a solely fee-based system and re-examine its funding and staffing models, in addition to increasing applicant outreach and education, to be more strategic in eliminating a backlog of work.