Update on House Appropriations and Fiscal Year 2022 Budget

On June 29, the House Appropriations Committee held a markup of suballocations for all fiscal year (FY) 2022 spending bills. The Committee released its FY2022 Report on the Suballocation of Budget Allocations, which proposes a discretionary spending allocation of $237.5 billion for the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (L-HHS-E) spending bill, a $63.4, or 36 percent, increase over the FY21 funding level and $81.3 billion in discretionary funding for the Commerce, Justice, Science spending bill. The L-HHS-E spending bill markup is scheduled for July 12 in the subcommittee, followed by full committee consideration on July 15. The Defense, Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bills are scheduled for markup on July 14. However, House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY), said the House may wait for the Senate’s budget blueprints before finalizing the House’s budget resolution, as reported by Roll Call.

House Passes the NSF for the Future Act

On June 28, the House passed the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) by a vote of 345-67. The NSF for the Future Act would authorize additional funding for the Foundation through 2026, and includes language to establish a new NSF Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions, which would expand education and research on STEM and increase NSF funding to $11 billion in 2022 and up to $14.5 billion over the subsequent five years. The Foundation would also be charged with increasing graduate fellowships to include no fewer than 3,000 fellows. The Act would also require an independent evaluation of the Foundation’s role in supporting graduate students’ education and the impact of varied funding mechanisms on the graduate student experience.


President Biden commended the bill and stated, “We need historic – once in a generation – investments in our competitiveness that support R&D, innovation, our semiconductor industry, and advanced manufacturing to grow our economy and create good-paying middle-class jobs in every corner of America.” The NSF for the Future Act is the second legislative effort passed in Congress this month that would reauthorize NSF funding. On June 9, the Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S.1260), which would provide federal funding for technology research and the NSF. CGS will continue to keep members apprised as lawmakers from both chambers conference to create and pass an identical bill to increase authorized funding for NSF.

CFPB Report Finds Student Loan Servicers Regularly Misinformed Borrowers Seeking PSLF

On June 29, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a new report detailing numerous issues where student loan servicers misinformed borrowers about their eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The report explains that due to the servicers’ malpractice, borrowers may have delayed their entry to a program, costing them additional monthly payments or causing them to believe they were ineligible to access PSLF altogether.


PSLF allows for cancellation of student loan debt for qualifying federal student loan borrowers who make monthly loan payments for 10 years while working in a public service job. The report highlights the repeated practice of servicers veiling information about participants’ pathways to eligibility: To avoid the transfer of loans away from the servicer and private lender, servicers averted informing borrowers that they could become eligible for PSLF by converting their loans from federally guaranteed loans into federal direct loans.


On June 14, The Department of Education released quarterly portfolio reports, which name the PSLF program among the agency’s top priorities to review and improve. The program has a high denial rate, roughly 95 percent, a problem the Department of Education is currently investigating. The CFPB report adds to the ongoing conversations around reviewing student debt and financial aid programs. On July 1, CGS joined community comments regarding the Department of Education’s intent to pursue negotiated rulemaking on programs under Title IV, including recommendations for the agency to improve PSLF.

U.S. Embassy in India to Resume Visa Interviews

On June 10, Don Heflin, head of consular services in India, shared that U.S. consulates in India will resume student visa application interviews on July 1, via a Facebook live event. Given the surge in coronavirus cases, the Department of State issued restrictions around travel from India with exceptions for U.S. citizens, students, and those who can prove their travel is of interest to the United States. As of June 14, the U.S. Embassy in India has opened 45,000 visa interview appointments, Heflin shared, in an effort to interview as many students as in 2019. India is among the most popular countries of origin for international students studying in the U.S, second to China. According to the SEVP Data Library, in 2020, 207,460 students from India participated in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, and 63,744 students from India participated in STEM Optical Practical Training (OPT), outpacing the 31,124 STEM OPT participants from China.


For students unable to travel to the U.S. in time for the start of Fall 2021 classes, Heflin recommended students contact their academic department to arrange a delayed arrival. Additionally, Heflin explained that students with F-1 or M-1 visas, including those participating in OPT, who intend to resume their courses on or after August 1, will not need National Interest Exception (NIE) authorization before travelling to the US from India within 30 days of their program start date. F-2 visa holds, relatives of F-1 visa holders, will need to get NIE approval prior to travel to the U.S. However, he clarified, given the current visa processing delays and COVID-19 restrictions, complications around a student’s return to India may arise.

House Committee Discusses Financial Barriers to Higher Education

On Tuesday, June 29 the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee held a hearing on expanding access to higher education. Lawmakers and witnesses discussed the evolving economic demands that obstruct access to postsecondary education and the need to improve federal support systems. The witness panel included Dr. Marshall Anthony Jr., senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress; Dr. Susan Whealler Johnston, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of College and University Business Officers; Dr. Steven M. Rose, president of Passaic County Community College; Dr. Susan M. Dynarski, professor of public policy, education, and economics at the University of Michigan; and Mr. Scott Pulsipher, president of Western Governors University.


Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) raised a number of issues pertaining to graduate education, including the need for high-paying career pathways to ensure a return on a costly and intensive degree. Dr. Anthony testified that graduate programs should only require students to take out as much debt as they can manage. He also noted that graduate funding opportunities are subject to racial disparity, and Black students typically face greater adversity in accessing funds while simultaneously are often in greater need. Dr. Anthony recommended that institutions implement a price cap on graduate programs or provide additional funding for specific degrees, such as doctoral programs.


Chairman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) championed the need for clear and accessible applications and education on federal student aid, particularly given the changing student demographics and rising tuition costs. Dr. Anthony noted that 60 percent of students are nontraditional students with family responsibilities. Dr. Rose emphasized that a transparent, simple federal aid application process would yield higher application rates, particularly among low income students. Dr. Dynarski recommended simplifying the tax code by offering one refundable tax credit for tuition, fees, room, and board to ensure low-income families are able to receive maximum benefits. She also recommended the tax credit arrive at enrollment, when tuition is due, rather than when taxes are filed the following year.


Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) asked for recommendations on his ongoing work to create tax exemptions for institutions to encourage matriculation of low-income students through existing federally funded programs and gradate low-income students with little debt. Dr. Dynarski emphasized the need for a unified, collaborative tax system focused on student safety. Dr. Johnston noted that most institutions are tax exempt, and citing its longstanding success, suggested Pell Grant expansion as a means to increasing the scope of impact.