December 6, 2021
Congress reached an agreement Thursday to temporarily fund the federal government, once again delaying the annual appropriations process and locking in the Trump administration’s higher education funding levels for at least the next two months.
With passage of the stopgap funding bill, Congress met its Friday deadline and averted a government shutdown. The House and Senate now have until Feb. 18 to reach an agreement on the language of the 12 appropriations bills that fund activities by the federal government, including at the Department of Education.
“While I wish it were earlier, this agreement allows the appropriations process to move forward toward a final funding agreement which addresses the needs of the American people,” House Appropriations Committee chair Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, said in a statement announcing the agreement.
The delay until February for a final funding agreement is longer than in recent years, but not dramatically outside of what’s typical, said Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government relations and public affairs at the American Council on Education. Congress is supposed to have an agreement on appropriations by the time the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, but that rarely happens.
“They usually want to wrap it up before the end of the calendar year, because at the end of December, we’re already 25 percent of the way through the federal fiscal year,” Hartle said. “But sometimes, as in the current contentious political climate, they can’t do it. And if they can’t do it, kicking the can down the road is always the preferred option.”
The House Appropriations Committee approved its draft budget for higher education spending in July. The legislation provides $27.2 billion for federal student aid programs and another $3.43 billion for higher education programs. The bill would increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $400 for the 2022-23 academic year and provide minority-serving institutions—including historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities—with a total of $1.13 billion.