From Your Lobbyist: Congress and White House Approve 2020 Government Spending Deal
December 17, 2019
Week of Dec 16-20
Two days prior to the second funding deadline of the year, Congress finally came to an agreement on government spending and revealed its fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill on Monday. The bill, which would fund the government through September 30th, 2020, includes a $1.3 billion bump to $72.8 billion in funding for the Department of Education. The House and Senate are expected to pass the bill by Thursday, with the President signing it into law by week’s end.
Given there was enough extra money to boost most education programs from early ed through adult education, higher education programs fared very well under the bill. Nearly every single higher ed program––from TRIO, GEAR Up, to HBCU and MSI supports––received modest increases in the bill. Similar to the 2-3% raises across the board, the maximum Pell Grant award is increased by $150, from $6,195 to $6,345 for the 2020-21 school year. In addition to the Pell Grant increase, many of the higher ed programs that AYA advocated for received more funding including campus-based aid programs like federal work study (+50 million) and federal supplemental educational opportunity grants (FSEOG) (+25 million). Additionally, institutional aid programs like support for HBCUs, HSIs, and tribal colleges received whopping 15% increases, providing millions more across the board to help minority serving institutions.
Unfortunately, one program took a big hit: The Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) program, which provided funds to the Department to help fix PSLF was reduced from $350 million in FY18 and FY19 to just $50 million for FY2020. While the report language accompanying the bill doesn’t provide details for the decrease, it was likely reduced this year because the Department has still, after two years of receiving this extra funding, processed less than 1% of all PSLF claims using these funds. While the reduction to TEPSLF isn’t great news, the funding bill does include strong language around protecting student borrowers. Among the several pages of report language, the bill includes several provisions aimed at holding institutions more accountable for high-quality outcomes, reducing misinformation provided to borrowers, and improve loan servicing while NextGen is being rolled out over the next few years. Lastly, unrelated to higher education but important to AYA’s members, the bill includes––after decades of no funding––$25 million for research to study the impacts of gun violence. Overall, the FY2020 bill is a win for higher education and will surly benefit many young Americans.