President Barack Obama released his administration’s FY16 budget proposal on February 2, 2015. The proposed budget would eliminate sequestration, raise budget caps, and increase funding to many federal programs. Four years ago, sequestration set future spending caps; the Administration’s proposed budget would raise discretionary spending to exceed the FY16 cap by seven percent, or $38.2 billion and $37 billion for defense and non-defense discretionary spending, respectively. Though Congress permitted discretionary spending over the sequester cap in FY14 and FY15, the gap in those years was only $9 billion. Among the Administration’s spending priorities, the budget proposes to make two years of community college education free, consolidate higher education tax breaks, and expand eligibility for Pell Grants.
Student aid and tax credits
The proposed budget makes permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), while expanding and consolidating the tax benefits it offers. On Pell Grants, the budget proposes to update the Grant to keep pace with inflation to maintain grant value. It would make academic progress requirements for recipients more stringent. Finally, schools that show success with Pell Grant-receiving students would receive a College Opportunity and Graduation Bonus. The budget would also greatly simplify the FAFSA. More than 5,000 UO students received nearly $24 million in Pell Grants last year.
The budget would provide funding increases for several research agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Energy Office of Science. It discusses the Administration's research and development priorities, including continuation of the National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing (page 277 ), a network of 45 university-industry innovation centers around the country. Along with supporting the nine existing centers, the budget would provide an additional $350 million in discretionary spending for seven new innovation institutes in the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, and Energy.
In other budget recommendations:
- The National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Research Initiative (AFRI) is proposed for funding at $450 million (38% above the FY15 enacted level). UO became a non-land grant college of agriculture in 2014, allowing for the waiver of the federal match requirement.
- The Economic Development Administration request includes $25 million for the Regional Innovation Strategies Program to promote projects that spur entrepreneurship and innovation at the regional level.
- Institute of Education Sciences received a boost of 17% (or $101 million over enacted FY15 levels) but funding for the National Center for Special Education Research remains flat at $54 mlillion.
- Title VI international education programs received a recommendation for a slight boost of $4 million (5.5%) to be targeted at increasing expertise in foreign languages and international studies;
- The president’s budget freezes funding for the US Department of Energy Fossil Energy R&D program, the funding source for Albany’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, High Energy Physics is recommended for funding at $788 million, up 2.9% from FY 15 funding of $766 million. The Building Technologies program is recommended to double its budget to $264 million.
- The National Endowment for the Humanities is recommended for a slight increase.
The budget proposes cutting funding for basic defense research, which includes various STEM fields, by 8.3 percent. The Administration has proposed similar cuts in past budget proposals, which have been rejected by Congress whenever raised. The Administration’s proposals face a Republican majority in both houses of Congress.
For more information, see the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities brief summary here or Lewis-Burke’s analysis here.