Modest increases in Senate funding bill

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Senate Democrats on Thursday released a fiscal year (FY) 2023 appropriations bill that would provide more modest increases for several key higher education and workforce development programs than in the House’s counterpart legislation, though both proposals would give a big bump for registered apprenticeship programs.

Although the Senate proposal includes less overall funding for workforce and education programs than the House plan, it would provide increases in key Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs but keep funding for programs such as Strengthening Community College Training at FY22 levels. (The House plan would double its funding to $100 million.)

Winners in the FY23 appropriations process are apprenticeships, according to an analysis by Capitol Hill Partners for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The Senate bill seeks $300 million (a 27.7% increase, or $65 million) for registered apprenticeship programs, while the House plan seeks $303 million (a 28.9% increase).

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) program also would see a significant increase, with at least a 22% bump in both chambers, according to the analysis. REO provides funding for programs that serve justice-involved youths and young adults and adults who were formerly incarcerated.

Funding for adult education state grants would also see a large increase in its funding — 5.1%, or $35 million, to $725.5 million — in the Senate bill. The House proposal would provide a 3.4%, or $23.5 million increase, to $714 million.

Increase for Pell

The Senate bill would mirror the House’s proposal to increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $500 to $7,395 for the 2023-24 school year. This would be the largest increase in the Pell grant since FY09, according to Democrats.

The bill also includes a new general provision making DACA students and students with temporary protected status or grant of deferred enforced departure eligible for Pell grants and federal student loans.

In addition, the bill includes $1.1 billion — an increase of $219 million, or 24.7% — for Aid for Institutional Development programs, which includes funding to strengthen historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, and minority-serving institutions.

The Senate bill also would increase funding for:

  • Federal TRIO programs by 12.1%, or $138 million, for a total of about $1.3 billion.
  • Postsecondary Student Success Grants by $70 million, for $75 million total. The grants aim to scale up evidence-based practices and reforms to improve postsecondary retention and completion rates.
  • The Child Care Access Means Parents in Schools program by 46.2%, or $30 million, for a total of $95 million, to provide quality child-care options to student parents. The House proposal seeks the same increase.

For employment and training activities, the bill includes nearly $3 billion for WIOA state grants, an increase of $80 million over FY22. It also would provide $1.7 billion for Job Corps, an increase of $25 million.

Next steps

Republican appropriators have raised objections to the significant spending increases for domestic programming, as they have during several FY23 funding hearings. The bill also includes provisions regarding sensitive political issues, such as abortion and border security.

The Senate won’t hold a committee markup or floor vote on the bill, rather it will take the legislation straight to conference to begin negotiating with House appropriators. The final funding measure is not expected until after the November elections, according to education advocates.

AACC hopes to see the funding compromise lean towards the House numbers on key programs for community colleges.

“It is important to recognize that this is the beginning of the appropriations process,” said AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus. “While it does give us some indications of what to expect from lawmakers in the coming months, we have to remind policymakers that community colleges serve nearly 40% of undergraduates in the nation and must be funded and supported appropriately and without regard for politics. Our collective voice is critical, and we will continue to advocate strongly at the federal level on behalf of community colleges and their students.”

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.