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Final Appropriations Bill Released

January 7, 2008

Ending a nearly 10-month standoff, Congress and President Bush reached agreement on a dramatically revised spending bill that included far fewer dollars for education, research, and other Democratic priorities.  Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, after months of attempted negotiations with the administration over funding levels, ultimately passed legislation that conformed to the overall spending ceilings President Bush established in the 2008 budget that he proposed last February.

The spending levels included in the final spending bill, however, do not represent the entire picture.  Legislation signed into law earlier this year renewing portions of the Higher Education Act (HEA) as part of a larger "budget reconciliation" bill, established mandatory spending programs to enhance the Pell Grant, as well as to support institutions that serve large numbers of minority students. The legislation also created a new program (TEACH Grants) to provide scholarships for future teachers. These mandatory funding levels are provided in addition to the annual, discretionary funds that were included in the final spending legislation. 

For example, the earlier action on the HEA provided funds to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $490 in 2008, but that projected increase over current levels assumed that Congress would provide enough discretionary funding to keep the maximum Pell Grant at its 2007 level of $4,310. However, the final spending bill, while increasing the dollars available to fund Pell Grants by some $554 million, will only be enough funding to provide for a maximum Pell Grant of $4,241.  Together with the mandatory funds provided by the prior HEA legislation, the maximum Pell Grant will rise $421 (rather than $490), to $4,731.

While the combined impact of the spending and budget reconciliation bills provided a net increase in the Pell Grant program, as well as certain other targeted programs, many other student aid programs fell victim to a 1.7 percent, largely across the board, cut from their 2007 spending levels.  Congress applied this systematic reduction in order to meet the overall spending ceiling provided for in the original administration budget proposal.  The following table charts the programs that were spared cuts and those that were subject to the 1.7 percent reduction, together with their final appropriation:

Programs That Received Level Funding in FY 2008

  • Federal Work Study ($980 million)
  • Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities ($238 million)
  • TRIO programs ($828 million)
  • Gear Up ($303 million)

Programs Subject to 1.7 Percent Cut

  • Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants ($757 million)
  • Perkins Loans Cancellations ($64 million)
  • Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships ($64 million)
  • Strengthening Historically Black Graduate Institutions ($57 million)
  • Minority Science and Engineering Improvement ($8.6 million)
  • Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions ($93 million)
  • American Indian Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities ($23 million)
  • Carl D. Perkins Act state grants ($1.161 billion)
  • Tech Prep grants ($103 million)
  • Byrd Scholarships ($40 million)
  • Javits Fellowships ($9 million)
  • Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need ($30 million)

In the area of research funding, the final agreement provided only very modest dollar increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) budgets, but the dollar increases were not enough to keep pace with inflation and were far lower than Congressional leaders had hoped to provide for the agencies. The bill also includes a new rule requiring NIH-funded researchers to provide electronic copies of their peer-reviewed manuscripts to NIH’s National Library of Medicine.  Under the terms of the bill, these manuscripts would become publicly available within 12 months after they have been published in a journal.

NACUBO Contact: Matt Hamill, senior vice president, advocacy and issue analysis