Omnibus, Take All of Us

DC Shuttle …

Omnibus Package Includes Education Spending. The FY 2016 omnibus (H.R. 2029) passed and signed into law last week provides $162.1 billion for the programs funded under the Labor-HHS-Education section. That is $5.4 billion more than last fiscal year, but $5.5 billion less than President Barack Obama had requested. Title I got an additional $500 million, up to approximately $14.9 billion, while state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act were increased by $415 million, up to $11.9 billion. The measure increased funds for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion, to $32 billion, and raised the maximum Pell Grant by $140, to $5,915. Most other research and education programs saw current spending levels maintained or got slight increases. The National Science Foundation got an additional $119 million, while the TRIO and GEAR UP college-preparatory programs got $60 million and $21 million increases. Head Start’s budget increased by $570 million, to $9.2 billion. Left out were policy riders that would have blocked the Education Department’s “gainful-employment rule,” and regulations that would have defined the credit hour. The bill includes a provision encouraging the Education Department to change the way it allocates student loans to loan servicers. It directs the department to publish a common policies and procedures manual for the servicers.

Tax Extender Package Includes Research and Development Tax Credit. Congress and the president enacted a tax extenders package, which permanently extended the Research and Development Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit that allows students and their parents to claim up to $2,500 a year for college expenses. The law also extends the teacher tax credit and the $4,000 tax deduction on tuition.

House and Senate Pass Bill to Revive Perkins Loan Program. The House passed by voice vote a bill (H.R. 3594) that would revive the Perkins Loan Program for two years, until 2017. The program expired Sept. 30. The program would apply to undergraduates and one year for graduate students. The Senate had passed the bill by voice vote after amending it to include a second year. The deal would tighten some of the eligibility criteria. Under the new law, borrowers are required to exhaust their eligibility for federal direct loans, both subsidized and unsubsidized, before receiving a Perkins Loan. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) had previously blocked action on the Perkins extension when the House passed a year-long extension in September. Alexander called for eliminating the Perkins Loan Program as part of an effort to simplify the federal government’s array of student loan programs and reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

Senate Passes Education Sciences Bill. The Senate passed SETRA, the Strengthening Education Through Research Act, by unanimous consent, which would reauthorize the Institute of Education Sciences. The measure must still be considered in the House but it easily passed the companion measure last Congress.

ED Launches REPAYE. The U.S. Education Department announced the launch of REPAYE, Revised Pay As You Earn. The program is for more than 32 million federal Direct Loan borrowers who can now cap monthly payments at 10% of their income and have their remaining debt forgiven after 20 or 25 years. The department announced final regulations expanding the PAYE program in October.

ESSA Guidance Released – The Education Department began releasing guidance on the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The department released initial guidance to states outlining how the transition process will work from the No Child Left Behind Act and to this new law. Schools have been functioning under waivers which expire on Aug, 1, 2016. The new law will fully come into effect in the 2017-18 school year, under a new president and education secretary. The department gave a preliminary picture of how it would like to proceed on regulation and requested input from states. All regulatory guidance and information about the new law will be posted at http://www.ed.gov/essa.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of Dec. 21, 2015. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.

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