Biden proposes 40 per cent budget boost for education

Higher education priorities include racial and economic diversity, and science

April 12, 2021
Printing money
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Joe Biden has proposed to Congress an annual federal budget that would hike US Department of Education spending by 40 per cent, much of it aimed at improving racial and economic diversity in higher education.

The fiscal 2022 budget outline includes a 6 per cent increase in the maximum Pell Grant for low-income college students, a 50 per cent increase in funding to help minority college students in the sciences, and a 20 per cent boost for the National Science Foundation.

The plan, which needs approval by Congress, would help to reverse a decade in which the US “significantly underinvested” in education and other core government services, the administration said in an announcement.

As with Trump administration budget proposals that envisaged sharp cuts in such areas, Congress may find more of a middle ground — albeit with Mr Biden’s fellow Democrats now holding the deciding votes.

Democratic party leaders and representatives of minority-serving colleges and research-intensive universities were among groups that issued responses broadly cheering the Biden budget outline.

The Biden proposal “request recognises the urgent need to make higher education more affordable for students and families”, said Bobby Scott, the Democratic chair of the House education committee.

But the committee’s top-ranking Republican, Virginia Foxx, disparaged the Biden outline, especially its suggestion that Pell Grants be made available to students who were brought illegally to the US as children.

The annual presidential outline is typically followed in subsequent days by a more detailed version, kicking off what often becomes a year-long budget-writing process in Congress.

Mr Biden’s proposed $103 billion (£75 billion) budget for the Department of Education would raise the maximum per-student Pell Grant award, now at $6,495, by $400, its largest single-year gain in more than a decade.

The White House called the increase a “significant first step” towards meeting the demands of some leading Democrats and higher education advocates for a doubling in the grant’s value.

The Biden plan also includes increases of $600 million for programmes to help under-represented college students, and $100 million more to help those in the sciences.

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