CSU Office of Federal Relations

California Dem Takano Joins House Education Committee
April 3rd, 2014

Freshman Representative Mark Takano (D-Riverside) has been named to the House Education & the Workforce committee. The former teacher and community college board member gave up his seat on the House Science committee, but remains on the Veterans Affairs committee. Takano becomes the fifth Californian on the committee, joining Republicans Buck McKeon and Duncan Hunter and Democrats George Miller and Susan Davis. However, McKeon and Miller, both former committee chairs, have announced their retirements at the end of this year.

Obama Releases 2015 Budget Plan
March 25th, 2014

On March 4, the White House released the President’s FY 2015 budget. While generally adhering to the spending caps included in the two-year budget deal negotiated by Congress last December, the proposed budget blueprint is accompanied by a “budget sidecar,” called the Opportunity, Security and Growth Initiative, which proposes an additional $56 billion in spending, split evenly between defense and non-defense discretionary funding, and generally paid for through tax code changes. The budget also proposes to permanently repeal sequester caps starting in FY 2016 and replace them with a balanced package of deficit reduction.

Under the administration’s FY 2015 budget, discretionary funding for the Department of Education would be $69 billion, which represents a 2 percent increase from FY 2014. Most postsecondary education programs would be level-funded from the amount received in FY 2014.

Of particular interest to the CSU, Pell Grant program funding would be sufficient to allow for a scheduled increase in the maximum grant to a projected $5,830, up from $5,730 in FY 2014. The administration would also tighten satisfactory academic progress requirements for Pell recipients in as yet unspecified ways, and re-establish a pathway for students to receive Pell without first receiving a high school diploma or GED.

Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) and Federal Work-Study would receive $733.1 million and $974.7 million respectively, the same as FY 2014. Also receiving level funding are early outreach and completion programs, including GEAR UP ($301.6 million) and TRIO ($638.3 million).

In recent years, several programs that assist minority-serving institutions (MSIs) have received a mix of mandatory and discretionary funds. With regard to discretionary money, funding for Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) would remain stable from FY 2014. However, mandatory funding for AANAPISIs and for the HSI STEM program would increase slightly, while mandatory funding for postbaccalaureate HSI programs would expire as scheduled on September 30, resulting in a net marginal increase for AANAPISI programs to $8 million (from $7.7 million), and net decrease for HSI programs to $207.4 million (from $210.9 million). Also of interest to the MSI community, FIPSE’s “First in the World” competition, which had been funded at $75 million in FY 2014, would be increased to $100 million, with $75 million reserved for a new competitive grant program for MSIs to undertake innovative and cost-saving strategies to improve student outcomes.

As in past years, the administration proposes to eliminate Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grants, and use the funding as part of a larger teacher and School Leader Pathway program. International education programs would see a small boost, from $72.1 million in FY 2014 to $76.2 million in FY 2015, with funds designated for visits and studies in foreign countries.

With respect to other agencies and programs of interest, AmeriCorps would be flat-funded at $335.4 million. While NSF overall would see a slight increase in funding, the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) programs would both continue to receive funding at the FY 2014 levels of $60.89 million and $45.62 million respectively. Within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hispanic Serving Institution Education Partnerships would be level-funded at $9.2 million, while the Capacity Building for Non-Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture (NLGCA) program, which received $4.5 million for FY 2014, would see its funding eliminated. And, as in past years, the administration budget proposes $10 million for a new endowment fund for Hispanic-Serving Agricultural Colleges and Universities (HSACUs), though the program has never been funded by Congress. On the tax side, itemized income tax deductions, including the current deduction for charitable giving, would see their value reduced for upper-income earners, while the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), currently set to expire in 2017, would become a permanent feature of the tax code.

Also outlined in the President’s FY 2015 budget is a new State Higher Education Performance Fund, which would provide $4 billion in competitive mandatory funding over four years, to be matched on a one-to-one basis by recipients, for states to support, reform, and improve the performance of their higher education systems similar to “Race to the Top” for elementary and secondary education. The budget would include an additional $7 billion over ten years for a new “College Opportunity and Graduation Bonus,” to reward colleges that successfully enroll and graduate a significant number of low-income students on time, and $52 million in new funds for design and implementation of the administration’s planned college rating system. However, given that lawmakers in both parties agreed to overall spending caps for FY 2015 just last December, it is highly unlikely that Congress will be willing to increase domestic spending, even accompanied by offsets, in order to fund new initiatives. The Senate has already indicated that it is unwilling to consider a 2015 budget resolution, and House budgeteers are also encountering resistance to doing so. Earlier this month, the CSU joined more than one thousand associations and institutions in urging House and Senate appropriators to restore funding for education, health, and labor programs to pre-sequester levels.

Congress Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Package
January 17th, 2014

Earlier this week, on a bipartisan vote of 359 to 67, the House passed HR 3547, an omnibus measure that finalizes spending levels for all federal programs in FY 2014, which runs through the end of September. The Senate quickly followed suit on a vote of 72 to 26, bringing to an end a prolonged budget battle that included a sixteen-day government shutdown as the fiscal year began last October 1. The $1.1 trillion package falls short of what was needed to fully restore cuts made in FY 2013 under the sequester, across the board decreases to most federal programs triggered by the failure of Congress and the Administration to agree on spending reductions and/or revenue increases sufficient to meet budget caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA).  However, HR 3547 provides discretionary funding above the $967 billion level previously slated for FY 2014 under the BCA, and also exceeds last year’s post-sequester level for discretionary spending, which was $988 billion.

Of particular interest to the CSU, the Department of Education would see an overall increase of $1.6 billion above last year’s sequester level.  Student aid and pipeline programs fared relatively well. The Pell maximum grant amount for the coming academic year will increase by about $85 to an estimated $5,730 (subject to finalization by the Department of Education).  The bill also requires the Department of Education to report on Pell Grant student enrollment and graduation by institution. Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Work-Study saw funding restored to nearly FY 2012 levels, at $733.1 million and $974.7 million respectively, as did the TRIO and GEAR UP programs, slated to receive $838.3 million and $301.6 million.  Programs for minority-serving institutions saw partial restorations, including $95.2 million for Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), $8.8 million for Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans (PPOHA), and $3.06 million for Strengthening Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI).  Teacher Quality Partnership grants were flat funded at the FY 2013 sequester level of $40.6 million.  The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) saw its budget grow from $3.3 million to an FY 2014 level of $79.4 million, which included $75 million in first-time funding for the administration’s new First in the World program, focused on innovation and completion.

CSU priority programs based in other agencies also received a boost compared with FY 2013 sequestered funding.  For example, within the Department of Agriculture, funding for capacity building grants for Non-Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture (NLGCA) increased from $4.1 million to $4.5 million, and Education Grants for Hispanic-Serving Institutions regained their FY 2012 funding level of $9.2 million.  Grants for Hispanic-Serving Agricultural Colleges and Universities (HSACUs), as in previous years, were not funded. Within the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program was funded at a level of $45.6 million, fully restoring sequester cuts, and the Robert T. Noyce Scholarship program was reportedly funded at $60.9 million.  Both were at funded at the level put forward by the administration and requested by the CSU. 

The budgeting process for FY 2015 is off to a better start; in December, the Congress agreed to a top line for the upcoming year that would again avoid the sequester and provide a modest increase over current levels.  However, with the nation’s debt ceiling needing to be increased as early as the end of February, another contentious funding showdown could materialize.

Two New Leaders Tapped for Education Department
November 21st, 2013

With his administration increasing its focus on college affordability, President Obama has begun the process of filling key US Department of Education positions related to higher education. NewSchools Venture Fund CEO Ted Mitchell was named to replace Under Secretary Martha Kanter, who will depart on December 13. Mitchell, like Kanter, is an experienced California leader. He served as president of Occidental College from 1999-2005 and before that was Vice Chancellor and Dean of the School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA.

Earlier this month, the White House also announced President Obama’s nomination of Ericka M. Miller as the Department’s Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education. The post was previously held by CSU Monterey Bay President Eduardo Ochoa from 2010-2012.  No date has been set yet for the US Senate to confirm the nominations.

Senate Joins the HEA Reauthorization Party
September 26th, 2013

The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) – the law that governs most federal programs related to student aid and institutional support – has gotten off to a slow but certain start on Capitol Hill, with the Senate recently joining the House and the Obama administration in seeking public input. On September 17, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Education (HELP) Committee announced a series of hearings on HEA reauthorization, and released a letter outlining the hearing process and soliciting recommendations. Under the announced Senate procedure, each hearing will be noticed at least one week in advance, and interested parties may submit brief recommendations specific to the individual hearing topic prior to the hearing.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which is also holding a series of HEA reauthorization hearings, announced a similar but more open process in April, and last month President Obama unveiled his own college affordability plan, much of which would require Congressional changes to the HEA (see Federal Relations Update, August 28, 2013). The Department of Education is now in the process of soliciting input for implementation of the President’s agenda. 

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, has indicated his desire to have a draft HEA reauthorization bill ready for consideration early next year. However, the last HEA reauthorization was several years overdue, and there are major pieces of expired education legislation, such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), in the cue for reauthorization ahead of HEA. In addition, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Ranking Republican Member of the HELP Committee, has indicated that he would prefer to rewrite the Higher Education Act from scratch, rather than just amending and reauthorizing the current act.

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Last Updated: April 03, 2014