Senate Appropriations Bill Reduces Funding for Education and Training Programs Critical for Low-Income Students

On June 25, on a party-line vote, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill to fund the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for fiscal year (FY) 2016, which administer the education and workforce programs that serve low-income people. The Senate majority bill, much like last week’s House bill, squanders opportunities created by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and inflicts major damage on low-income people’s education and training prospects. The bill compounds the problem of low spending caps created by the sequester with further cuts to crucial programs. This includes:

  • Cutting $331 million from Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) employment and training programs, including $41 million from WIOA Title I Youth activities and $40 million from adult employment and training activities. This is roughly 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively, below the levels Congress authorized in last year’s workforce reauthorization. At these spending levels, WIOA cannot fully fulfill its promise of expanding education and training opportunities for low-income and other vulnerable individuals. However, the bill would better align WIOA and Title IV student aid by replacing the current definition of an eligible career pathway program in the Higher Education Act with the definition in WIOA.
  • Rescinding $300 million from the Pell Grant program in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Although this does not immediately remove any students’ eligibility for Pell or reduce recipients’ awards, it does accelerate the timing of an expected Pell funding shortfall, which is estimated to occur in FY 2018.
  • Cutting nearly $40 million from Federal Work-Study, reducing its appropriation to $949.7 million. With the corresponding reduction in matching funds, this translates to a nearly $47.4 million reduction in aid available to students, including $9.6 million to independent students and $9.5 million to dependent students whose families earn less than $24,000 annually.
  • Cutting more than $29 million from Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), reducing its appropriation to $704.1 million. With the corresponding reduction in matching funds, this translates to a nearly $40 million reduction in aid available to students, including $16.2 million to low-income students who qualify for the automatic-zero Expected Family Contribution and $8.5 million to students who attend less than full time.
  • Cutting $29 million from the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) and an additional $6 million from AEFLA national leadership activities. Removing resources from this program, which is both necessary to improve adults’ foundational skills and already severely underfunded, is a mistake. The reduction in funding for leadership activities is especially detrimental at this critical time when the 2014 bipartisan passage of WIOA places new requirements on adult education programs. The initial implementation period, occurring right now, is when leadership is most critical.
  • Eliminating First in the World grants, for which $60 million was available in 2015. These grants are awarded to institutions to develop and replicate program supports or other strategies that increase persistence and completion among low-income and nontraditional students. Building a reservoir of knowledge about the supports that are most effective for these students is invaluable to ensuring they achieve their postsecondary goals.
  • Eliminating the Child Care Access Means Parents In School (CCAMPIS) program, for which $15 million was available in 2015. CCAMPIS offers child care services to low-income parents on college campuses using a sliding-fee scale. By providing access to affordable, reliable child care, CCAMPIS enables student-parents to persist in their studies and complete postsecondary credentials.

The Senate majority bill, which begins with sequester caps and makes even deeper cuts, would weaken programs that address the underlying causes of poverty. President Obama has vowed to veto any budget that does not lift sequester caps, rightly recognizing the consequences of disinvestment and making it highly unlikely this bill will move forward. CLASP urges Congress to pass an appropriations bill that helps low-income and nontraditional students access and complete postsecondary education and training and move successfully into the workforce.