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APLU Statement on House & Senate FY2016 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Bills

Washington, DC – Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson today released the following statement regarding recent committee approval of the House and Senate versions of the Fiscal Year 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations bills.

“While the U.S. has made enormous advances in medical research in recent years, the search continues for better treatments and cures for a wide range of diseases and ailments. We are very pleased that both the House and Senate bills recognize the importance of investing in medical research by providing increases to the National Institutes of Health. The promise of saving lives and improving the quality of life for so many Americans will only be fulfilled with such investments. The Senate bill’s proposed increase for NIH is an especially strong acknowledgement of the need to aggressively address NIH’s stagnant budget over the past decade.

“Similarly, we applaud lawmakers for including the necessary funding to support the scheduled increase in the maximum Pell grant award, which provides access to higher education for millions of students from low-income households. The Pell grant program has been an important foundation of federal student aid and is critical to helping the U.S. reach its goal of having 60 percent of the working age population hold a post-secondary degree. Thus, we are deeply troubled that both bills take surplus Pell grant funds, which are needed to help ensure that the Pell program can fully support qualified future students. Reducing the Pell surplus jeopardizes the financial health of the program for the next fiscal year and beyond. Further, reducing funding available for the Pell Grant program during a year in which the Higher Education Act is due to be reauthorized may limit Congress’ ability to make important improvements to the program, such as reinstating additional Pell Grants for year-round study (year-round Pell). As the appropriations process proceeds, we urge the committee to prioritize the restoration of Pell surplus while retaining the appropriate increase in the Pell grant award.

“While the investments in NIH and Pell grants are laudable, support for other key programs in the bill fall short under the guise of the self-inflicted, misguided, and unnecessary sequester. Congress has effectively tied its own hands together, but it can undo this budgetary morass by lifting the budget caps and addressing our nation’s long-term budget challenges through a comprehensive approach involving entitlement and tax reform.

“We appreciate the increases in the House bill for the TRIO and GEAR UP programs that serve disadvantaged students while avoiding cuts to the Federal Work Study (FWS) and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG). Unfortunately, the Senate bill would cut those programs. We are troubled that both bills would cut the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) program, which helps high quality graduate students in financial need. Additionally, both bills propose eliminating the First in the World program, which has supported the development and expanded use of innovative solutions to help at-risk students succeed with their post-secondary education. Further, the Senate bill’s proposed cuts to International Education and Foreign Language Studies, compounded with other significant cuts in Title VI in recent years, would seriously endanger efforts to enhance global competencies of our students and ensure U.S. capacity in less commonly taught languages and cultures. Regarding health research, we are concerned about the proposed cut in the Senate bill for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and we oppose the elimination of the agency in the House bill.

“Several policy provisions attached to the bill are also concerning, particularly since they could undermine important oversight of federal resources. APLU believes the federal government has an important role to play in providing targeted, responsible oversight of post-secondary institutions to protect students and taxpayers. There is undoubtedly a need for Congress to help provide relief from many of these rules and regulations that are often redundant, contradictory, or unnecessarily complex. However, not all rules are problematic and a comprehensive attempt to address regulation should be done in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, not in language included in the appropriations bill.”

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