Washington Watch: ED, Labor funding bill heads to House Appropriations Committee

Photo: Matthew Dembicki/AACC

The House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS) appropriations subcommittee today released its report containing fiscal year (FY) 2022 funding levels for all the programs in its jurisdiction.

The full House appropriations committee will vote on the bill today. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has communicated its support of the legislation to Congress.

The LHHS bill provides $253.8 billion overall, an increase of $55.2 billion (28%) above FY 2021. The legislation tops the president’s budget request for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), matches it for the Department of Education (ED) and comes in slightly below it for the Department of Health and Human Services.

As expected, the bill does not contain the components of President Biden’s American Jobs and Families plans. The president has proposed to fund those initiatives, including tuition-free community college and a community college-led job training program, through mandatory funds that fall outside the appropriations committee’s jurisdiction. These proposals may be taken up later this year in budget reconciliation legislation. 

The House bill’s substantial increases are expected to be the high-water mark for program funding levels in the FY 22 appropriations process. Legislation must have bipartisan support to pass in the Senate, and it is unlikely enough (or any) Republicans will support funding at these amounts.  So, many of the amounts noted below may be reduced in final FY 22 funding legislation. Nevertheless, the House bill puts higher education and workforce training programs on a strong footing in negotiations to come.

The House is expected to pass some, if not all of, the 12 appropriations bills before leaving at the end of the month for Congress’ August recess. It is unclear at this time how the appropriations process will unfold in the Senate, but no action is expected until the fall.

Dept. of Education

The bill provides a total of $102.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for ED, an increase of $29.3 billion above the FY 21 enacted level. Most of these new resources are dedicated to K-12 programs, but many higher education programs also will see significant increases.

The bill raises the maximum Pell Grant by $400, to $6,895 for the 2022-23 award year, the same amount as proposed in Biden’s budget. Unlike recent maximum grant increases that have been funded entirely through a program surplus, the bill adds $2.25 billion dollars to the program’s appropriation. (The president has also called for a Pell max increase of $1,475 in his American Families Plan, but as noted above that proposal is outside of the appropriations committee’s jurisdiction.)  The bill does not rescind any money from the Pell Grant surplus to pay for other program increases, as has been done in recent years.

The bill deviates significantly from the president’s budget with hefty increases to campus-based student aid programs. The Federal Work-Study program is increased by $244 million (21%) and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant is boosted by $148 million (17%). Both programs were level-funded in the president’s budget.

The LHHS bill tops the president’s budget, albeit more modestly, for other community college priority programs including Perkins CTE state grants (+$50 million, 4%) and Adult Basic Education (+$50 million, 7%).

The bill matches the president’s requested increases for all the Higher Education Act Title III and V programs, including large increases for HBCUs, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and other Minority-Serving Institutions. The Title III-A Strengthening Institutions program, a longstanding AACC priority, would nearly double in size (+$100 million, 92%).

The bill meets the president’s requested funding increases for other community college priority programs as follows (increase amount, percentage):

  • TRIO: $200.8 million, 18%
  • GEAR-UP: $40 million, 11%
  • Child Care Access Means Parents in School: $40 million, 73%

Dept. of Labor

For community colleges, the highlight of the bill’s DOL funding is an increase of $55 million (122%) for the Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants, bringing program funding to $100 million. Championed by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, the program enters its third year in FY 22.  A solicitation for grants for the current fiscal year is expected this fall. 

The LHHS bill provides $76 million more than the president’s budget for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act state formula programs, increasing them by $250 million (9%). The Registered Apprenticeship program is bolstered by $100 million (54%).

About the Author

Jim Hermes
is associate vice president of government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.