What the Congressional Budget Deal Means for Higher Ed

Bipartisan congressional negotiators have reached an agreement on a $1-trillion spending bill that would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health and reinstate year-round Pell Grants. The measure would fund the government through September 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Legislators in both the House of Representatives and the Senate are expected to vote on it by the end of this week.

The bill’s increase for the NIH, amounting to $2 billion, is in sharp contrast to the budget blueprint laid out in March by the Trump administration. In the proposed “skinny budget” for the 2018 fiscal year, the administration called for an 18-percent cut in the NIH’s budget and a reorganization of its institutes and centers.

“The investments we make in NIH research will not only save lives; they’ll lead to new frontiers in drug and device development that are critical for reducing health-care costs, growing our economy, and maintaining America’s competitive edge in innovation,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, in a written statement.

Advocates on both sides of the aisle have supported reinstating year-round Pell Grants for students since that part of the program was eliminated in 2012 — and this spending package would deliver it. While the appropriated funding for the Pell Grant program would remain the same, the bill would reinstate summer grants, which would provide roughly a million students with an additional $1,650 each, according to estimates. The bill also includes a $7.5-million increase in funding for institutional development programs aimed at supporting master’s-degree programs at historically black colleges and universities.

Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, urged quick approval of the bill by Congress and the White House. “It is a solid bill that reflects our common values and that will help move our nation forward,” he said in a written statement.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the Senate minority leader, sang a similar tune in a statement on Sunday night. “This agreement is a good agreement for the American people, and takes the threat of a government shutdown off the table.”

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