Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Washington UPDATE: Congress Shifts Gears, Increases Education Budget by $8 Billion

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Washington UPDATE: Congress Shifts Gears, Increases Education Budget by $8 Billion

Article excerpt

Washington UPDATE: Congress Shifts Gears, Increases Education Budget By. $8 Billion

Congress completed a major shift on domestic spending last month when it approved a much-debated budget bill with an extra $8 billion for education, employment and social services next year.

Much of the increase -- about $3.5 billion -- goes directly into federal education programs, including Pell Grants, work-study and Title I. The maximum Pell Grant would increase by $230 to $2,700, the same level proposed by President Clinton earlier this year in a budget then labeled as "dead on arrival" in the Republican Congress.

Analysts say the shift in congressional thinking stems from a fear that the White House could provoke another government shutdown to embarrass Republicans just weeks before the November elections.

The final budget exceeds recommendations made by Senate Republicans last month to jump start the White House/Congress budget negotiations. In some cases, the final bill goes beyond even what Democrats proposed last month in trying to increase spending above earlier GOP proposals.

Both political parties sought to take credit for the final package. Clinton called the Pell Grant increase the largest in two decades. Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.) said the agreement shows the GOP does not want to cut education. "We've increased education spending off the board," he said.

The House and Senate approved the package in late September, and Clinton signed the measure just before the new fiscal year took effect Oct. 1.

Here is a breakdown of the negotiated agreement and its effect on specific programs:

- Pell Grants: The $2,700 maximum is $200 more than proposed by the House and $100 more than proposed by the Senate as recently as two weeks ago.

- Work-study: Funding was increased 34 percent. At $830 million, the program exceeds 1996 funding by $213 million. The recommendation goes a long way toward meeting a White House goal of $1 billion in funding by the end of the century.

- Perkins Loans: The final agreement dropped a House provision to terminate new capital contributions in the program. In fact, the final plan allocated $158 million -- $90 million more than an earlier Senate proposal and the same as the White House request.

- TRIO: Congress agreed to $500 million, up $37 million from the 1996 funding level.

- State Student Incentive Grants: The pact allotted $50 million, up significantly from current funding and earlier GOP budgets. …

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