President Biden’s New Budget Plan Strengthens Higher Education Access
Late last week, the White House released part-two of its fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget proposal outlining the Biden-Harris Administration’s key priorities and mandatory funding goals for the upcoming fiscal year. Part-one, which was released in April and dubbed the “skinny” budget, outlined President Biden’s discretionary funding goals. While the annual budget proposals are not law, they do serve as guidance to Congress as they begin to think through their budget allocations for the fiscal year. AccessLex released a statement supporting the budget plan because it strengthens higher education access for low-income families and students of color, supports student-parents, and eases the burden of student debt. Overall, the budget increases Department of Education spending by nearly 41 percent and includes the following notable provisions related to higher education.
President Biden’s Budget Makes Investments in HBCUs and MSIs
Both part-one and part-two of President Biden’s budget proposal would make investments in Black students and in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) with:
- An increase of $600 million in Higher Education Act (HEA) Title III funding for HBCUs, MSIs, and other under-resourced institutions.
- Two years of subsidized tuition for students from families earning less than $125,000 enrolled in a 4-year HBCU, MSI or Tribal College and University.
These investments in Black students, HBCUs and MSIs would be a step forward in mitigating some of the equity issues that persist in higher education and the persistent underfunding of these institutions.
Makes Affordable Childcare a Higher Education Priority
Over the years, families across the country have seen the price of childcare increase. In some instances, childcare costs are outpacing the cost of in-state tuition at public 4-year colleges. For student-parents, President Biden’s proposal to limit low- and middle-income families’ childcare costs to no more than seven percent of their income is critically important. This investment recognizes the changing demographic of students and acknowledges that childcare costs should not be the reason a student is prevented from pursuing, persisting in, and finishing a degree.
Promises to Work with Congress on Easing the Student Debt Burden
With student debt at an all-time high, it is no surprise that the budget proposal included provisions aimed at strengthening current repayment programs with:
- $25 million in increased funding to the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) program.
- A call to work with Congress on changes to improve the Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) programs.
Both PSLF and TEPSLF have suffered from implementation issues that have left many without the loan forgiveness that Congress intended they receive because of the tremendous benefits that public servants provide. Similarly, many low-income borrowers in IDR plans are still struggling and finding themselves with more student debt than when they enrolled in these plans. The proposed increase in TEPSLF funding and plan to work with Congress on additional reforms offers hope that ongoing repayment and forgiveness issues will be addressed, and that each program will provide the debt relief that was intended.
The next step in the budget process will be for the House and Senate to pass a budget resolution, which will set the spending and revenue limits to use as they go forward with the annual appropriations process. The deadline for Congress to pass all twelve appropriations bills and have them signed by the president is September 30, 2021.