Washington, DC – Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson today released the following statement regarding the Senate Appropriations Committee’s approval of the Fiscal Year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations bill.
“The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Fiscal Year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations bill is an important step toward boosting college degree completion and discovering cures and treatments for our most challenging diseases and illnesses. Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray deserve much credit for working in a bipartisan fashion to craft a meaningful bill and advancing it through regular order.
“APLU strongly applauds the committee for including a $2 billion increase for NIH in the measure. After years of flat funding, NIH received an important increase last year and this measure builds on that by providing another boost to the agency charged with helping to unlock cures and treatments for the most devastating diseases and illnesses. The United States has long held the position as global innovation leader, but that role had been slipping away in recent years as other nations increase their research investment. By increasing funding for NIH, this committee is helping to do its part to prevent a U.S. innovation deficit. Strengthened support for NIH means that our nation’s public research universities will have an even more prominent role in developing these medical advances. Research funding is not yet where it needs to be, but we are certainly a step closer on the biomedical front with this bill.
“On the education side, the Pell Grant program is the federal government’s most critical program to help low-income and disadvantaged students afford college and receive the lifelong benefits that come with a higher education. APLU strongly commends the committee for its restoration of year-round Pell in this bill. In doing so, the committee is recognizing that increased access and affordability is only part of the picture. We must work to boost degree completion. It isn’t good for either students or taxpayers when a student takes out federal loans or receives other federal aid and doesn’t finish. The true benefits of college come with a degree. The restoration of year-round Pell will enable students to afford summer classes so that they can graduate sooner with less debt and enter the workforce more quickly. Additionally, by increasing the maximum grant to $5,935, the committee is making college more affordable for low-income students.
“The Pell Grant program is critical to helping the U.S. reach its goal of having 60 percent of the working age population hold a post-secondary degree. APLU has been clear in our position that Congress should not use the Pell surplus for any purpose outside of Pell as the funding is needed to protect the long-term fiscal health of the program. While we understand the difficult financial constraints facing members of the committee as they drafted the bill, we are disappointed by the rescission of Pell surplus funding and urge Congress to restore the funding as the appropriations process proceeds.
“Elsewhere in the bill, Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Federal Work Study, TRIO, and GEARUP are all level funded. Given the fiscal climate, APLU understands the challenges with which the committee is working, but nevertheless believes these important programs warrant at least modest increases. Similarly, we are disappointed by the cut to the overseas component of the Title VI international education program, which is complementary to the domestic component as it provides funding for improvements in teaching and research in other cultures and languages, and the training of specialists.”