The new federal spending bill approved in March contains a $4 billion increase for the Department of Education. Some experts expressed a desire for more education funding but say this year’s increase is a move in the right direction.
The increase in spending runs counter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ proposed $3.6 billion in education budget cuts and allocation of more than $1 billion to private school vouchers and various school choice plans. Additional proposed cuts had included freezing the amount students can receive from Pell Grants as well as cutting programs including loan forgiveness for public service and the subsidized loan program, according to CNN.
“When this department was created, it was charged with prohibiting federal control of education,” DeVos said of the proposed budget cuts. “Accordingly, President Trump is committed to reducing the federal footprint in education, and that is reflected in the budget.”
The spending bill ultimately did not include those proposed budget changes. Instead, here are some highlights of the education budget increases:
Campus-based aid programs: A $107 million increase went to the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and federal work-study programs added $140 million.
Funding for the Child Care Access program: Good news for college student parents: funding more than tripled from $15 million to $50 million.
Office for Civil Rights: The office received an additional $8.5 million.
Pell Grants: After a proposal to freeze the program, Congress increased the maximum award 3 percent ($175) to $6,095.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness: President Trump’s previous two education budget proposals asked Congress to phase it out, but the new budget added $350 million in funding.
Student mental health services: The grant program received an additional $700 million in funding.
In a letter to Congress, Marc Egan, director of government relations for the National Education Association, supported the spending increase. He wrote: “This bill, while not perfect, takes the first step in reinvesting in education funding and prioritizes programs which help students most in need … The FY18 omnibus appropriations bill takes long overdue steps to increase education funding after years of austerity.”
These increases have a two-year time span, but next up is reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA). This could include large proposed cuts in the federal student loan program, potentially affecting borrowers.
Author: Mike Brown
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