FY 2016 spending measure approved, key investments in research and student aid

On December 18, President Obama gave final approval to a $1.1 trillion budget deal that will fund the federal budget through the end of FY 2016. The bill increases funding for all of the major research agencies, allows the Pell Grant maximum award to rise for the 2016-2017 school year, and makes permanent tax benefits valuable to higher education. The funding was made possible when Congress took action in early November to lift the budget caps and avert sequestration.

For research, the measure: 

  • Increases funding for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion to $32.1 billion (a 6.5% increase over FY15) -- the largest single increase for the agency in over a decade;
  • Increases funding for the Institute of Education Sciences to $618 million, an increase of 7.7% over FY15 and averts drastic cuts to the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) over previous House and Senate budget action;
  • Increases funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative by $25 million to $350 million (7.7%);
  • Increases funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science by $279 million to $5.35 billion (5.5%);
  • Increases funding for the National Science Foundation by $119 million to $7.46 billion (1.6%). Importantly, the measure did not include caps to directorates as had been proposed in earlier budget drafts for the geosciences and social, behavioral and economic sciences directorate;
  • Increases funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities to $147.9 million, an increase of $1.9 million and the first increase in six year. 

The Association of American Universities produced a funding chart with greater detail.   

UO’s research priorities fared well in the budget. Among other priorities, funding for the US Department of Education’s NCSER, a key supporter of research at the UO College of Education, remained at $54 million, forestalling previously proposed cuts of up to 30 percent. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Earthquake Early Warning program, that includes activities at UO, received $8.2 million in the U.S. Geological Survey budget, more than $3 million above the President’s request. The Agricultural Research Service, a funder of the Advanced Wood Research and Design Center, was allocated $3.5 million. 

For education and student aid programs, the measure:

  • Ensures the maximum Pell Grant award will increase by $140 to $5,915 in the 2016-2017 school year while not dipping into the Pell surplus;
  • Increases TRIO by $60 million to $900 million (a 7.1% increase over FY15);
  • Increases GEARUP by $21 million to $323 million (7%). 

The measure also set aside efforts to cut Title VI international education programs (Fulbright-Hayes, and other language/area studies programs). UO houses two centers funded through Title VI, and UO students and faculty overachieve relative to its size in receiving competitive awards through Title VI program, such as the Fulbright. 

In seperate action, tax measures important to the higher ed community were made permanent. Those measures include the IRA Charitable Rollover, an important philanthropy tool, and the Research & Development tax credit. It also extends through 2016 the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses.

Betsy Boyd, UO Associate Vice President for Federal Affairs, is available to answer questions about the budget deal. An analysis of the deal prepared by Lewis-Burke is available here. The National Association of College and Business Organization (NACUBO) has prepared podcast a that explains key elements of the Omnibus particularly as it relates to student aid and tax policy.