Senate appropriators approve FY18 spending bill

Senate appropriators on Thursday passed a fiscal year 2018 spending bill that would increase the maximum Pell Grant award and retain funding for job training programs — and also create a new one to help areas having a hard time recovering from the recent economic recession.

The bill — which the Senate Appropriations Committee passed 29-2 after its subcommittee approved it on Wednesday — would increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $100 to $6,020, and provide $2.7 billion for the formula grants authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). It also would create a $30 million program to train workers in the Appalachian and Delta regions.

The sister funding bill in the House would make deep funding cuts to WIAO programs and freeze the Pell maximum at $5,920.

Both bills, however, would make significant cuts to the Pell surplus: The Senate bill would rescind $2.6 billion, while the House bill would take $3.3 billion.

While Senate Democrats would have liked to provide more funding for critical education, training and other programs — and they hope that Congress may raise the overall cap on non-defense discretionary spending — “this bill is a good first step and a strong foundation for continued bipartisan work,” said committee member Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington).

Details for ED, DOL programs

The bill includes $68.3 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Education Department (ED), $29 million above the FY17 level. It calls to freeze funding for several programs important to community colleges, including:

  • Perkins Career and Technical Education State Grants ($1.1 billion)
  • Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants ($733 million)
  • Federal Work-Study ($990 million)
  • GEAR UP ($340 million)

Some programs received small increases, including $3 million for the TRIO program, which would get $953 million.

For the U.S. Labor Department, the Senate bill would provide $12 billion, $61.5 million below FY17. That includes $95 million for apprenticeship grants, which the House bill would nix. Senate appropriators also directed the department to work with the Delta Regional Authority to expand apprenticeship in rural areas.

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