President Biden’s Preliminary Budget Released for FY22

On April 9, President Biden released his preliminary budget request for fiscal year 2022 (FY22), including top-line numbers for the federal agencies. The White House is expected to release a more detailed budget with funding requests for specific programs later this spring. Promoting racial equity, increasing public health safety, and combatting the climate crisis are among the central themes of the President’s proposal. Among the notable increases, the Department of Education would receive roughly $103 billion, a 40% increase in funding compared to the fiscal year 2021 enacted level; the Department of Health and Human Services would receive approximately $134 billion, a 23% increase; and the National Science Foundation would receive $10.2 billion, a 20% increase. CGS published a summary of funding areas important to graduate education and research and looks forward to working with the Administration and Congress as more details are released. All CGS appropriations advocacy is available here.

Congress Begins Appropriations Process

Upon receiving President Biden’s preliminary budget request, Congress has commenced its appropriations process, beginning with committee hearings for various agencies and programs. On April 13, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies held a hearing on the President’s FY22 Funding Request for the National Science Foundation (NSF). President Biden requested $10.2 billion for NSF, a 20% increase, with provisions included from the forthcoming Endless Frontiers Act. NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan advocated for Congress to increase funding for the agency to reassert the U.S. as a leader in science and global research and expand accessibility and inclusivity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.


On April 15, the House Appropriations subcommittee for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing on the FY22 Budget Request for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS would receive roughly $134 billion, a 23% increase, under the President’s proposal. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra testified before the subcommittee, citing the President’s request as a foundation to tackle public health crises percolating in the U.S., including but not limited to behavioral and mental health, tribal health, and emerging health threats through science, data, and research.


In the coming weeks, the White House is expected to release a more detailed budget request, including additional funding requests for specific programs. These numbers will assist Congress in creating a unified set of appropriations bills to fund the federal government in FY22, which begins October 1.

F-1 Students Can Now Apply for OPT Online

On Monday, April 12, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that F-1 students seeking optional practical training (OPT) can now file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization online. The flexibility extends to individuals filing for pre-completion OPT; post-completion OPT; or the 24-month extension for STEM OPT. Online filing is intended to ensure a secure and efficient process, allowing applicants to check their case status and receive electronic notices from the agency rather than through the mail. The full notice is available here.


Through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, OPT is a program that provides international students studying in the U.S. opportunities to gain work experience in their area of study through temporary employment. For more information, see the CGS policy brief on OPT.

Committee Hearing on Nomination of Top Higher Ed Official

On April 15, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on the nomination of James Richard Kvaal to serve as undersecretary for the Department of Education, the top agency official overseeing higher education. Currently serving as the president of The Institute for College Access and Success and formerly the senior advisor on domestic policy and deputy undersecretary of education in the Obama administration, Kvaal brings a host of higher education policy experience.


On April 14, CGS joined the higher education community on a letter to the Senate HELP Committee leadership in support of Kvaal’s nomination, citing his “dedication to ensuring that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed in postsecondary education.” On April 21, the Senate HELP Committee will hold a markup to vote on the nomination, likely sending it to the Senate floor.

Senate Committee Holds Endless Frontiers Act Hearing

On April 14, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a legislative hearing on the Endless Frontier Act, legislation soon to be introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Todd Young (R-IN). Aimed at reinstating the U.S. as a leader in global competitiveness, the legislation would strengthen the nation’s innovation ecosystem by investing $110 billion over five years in the National Science Foundation and the Department of Commerce. The investments would prioritize the development of new technologies and increase diversity in the STEM fields, among other initiatives.


The Senators and witnesses agreed that increased investment in the U.S. research and development (R&D) enterprise is necessary, securing bipartisan support for pieces of the legislation. Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) noted that, in recent years, federal investment in R&D has significantly declined even though federally-funded research has produced more than $1 trillion in economic growth and “millions of new jobs” between 1996 and 2015.


The Committee emphasized the importance of tapping a diverse group of scientists to accelerate the U.S. scientific enterprise. Witnesses recommended intentional, inclusive recruitment efforts and equal investments in funding for all states. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) suggested that provisions from the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (S.289) should be added, including support for early-career researchers whose career prospects may have been disrupted due to the pandemic. The full hearing recording is available here.


Although the Endless Frontiers Act has yet to be formally introduced in the 117th Congress, CGS endorsed a previous version of the bill in June 2020. The forthcoming introduction could be bundled into a package of legislation focused on boosting domestic manufacturing and U.S. competitiveness, the American Competitiveness Act, which is expected in the coming weeks.