Funding for education and research will be slashed under the spending bill passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday morning. The bill, which passed by a vote of 235 to 189, will cut $61 billion from budget for fiscal year 2011 and could significantly affect whether or not some college students will be able to continue to fund their education. The US Department of Education’s budget would be cut by $5 billion under the bill.
The Chronicle of High Education says that the House’s spending bill proposes to cut the maximum Pell Grant by 15 percent, or $845, and eliminate dozens of education programs. The bill would also reduce spending on the National Institutes of Health to 2008 levels and set the National Science Foundation‘s budget $150-million below its level in 2010. In other words, the House bill directly opposes President Obama’s calls to put resources behind education and innovation as key to lifting the country from the economic recession.
The House’s bill also, in a somewhat roundabout way, ends up supporting some for-profit colleges by preventing the Department of Education from enforcing a rule which would penalize for-profits that ‘saddle students with mountains of debt.’ The gainful employment rul would ‘cut off federal aid to programs whose students have the highest debt burdens and lowest loan-repayment rates, while limiting enrollment growth at hundreds of other programs.’
Says the Chronicle of High Education:
The amendment affecting for-profits, which was passed Friday, 289-136, would prohibit the department from using federal funds to enforce its proposed “gainful employment rule” in the 2011 fiscal year, which ends September 30. That delay, backed by the House’s Republican majority and more than four dozen Democratic members as well, would give for-profit colleges and their allies more time to block or overturn the rule, which would cut off federal student aid to programs whose borrowers have high debt-to-income ratios and low loan-repayment rates. The Education Department is expected to issue a final rule in the coming weeks.
The amendment would also bar the department from using federal money to enforce new rules that will require for-profit colleges to report more information about student outcomes and to notify the department when they create new programs.
In other words, the House is blocking a measure that would require for-profit colleges to be more accountable, if they wish to use federal money. Such colleges, which rely heavily on taxpayer support and high student loan default rates have been increasingly shown to promise more than they deliver.
Supporters of the amendment, including its sponsor, Rep. John P. Kline Jr., a Republican of Minnesota, chairman of the education committee, argue that for-profit colleges preservs ‘students’ right to choose which college they attended,’ but overlook the fact that such colleges—being for-profit—are more likely to tailor their programs to students’ wishes, without regard for academic standards and educational outcomes.I advise students at my college about applying to graduate school and have been struck by how often students do not realize that some programs are for-profit, and that there is a significant difference in the degree they earn from such schools.
EdWeek quotes two Democrats who have ‘blasted’ the bill:
“From crib to college, students will be at a disadvantage if the House proposal is enacted,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who oversee the Senate panel responsible for education funding, said earlier this week as the House debated the bill. “There is no question that the time has come for tough budget decisions, but the smart way to bring down the deficit is for Congress to pursue a balanced approach of major spending cuts and necessary revenue increases, while continuing to make investments in education.”
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, also criticized the bill, saying today that, “with cuts to Head Start, our most vulnerable students and to job training, the Republicans are showing their true colors.”
The House bill faces Democratic opposition in the Senate, which will vote on the bill in early March, as well as a Presidential veto.
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