Senate gives final approval to FY15 funding measure

In a very rare weekend session, the Senate voted 56-40 late Saturday evening to pass the FY15 $1.1 trillion spending package that funds most of the government through next September. The package combined all but one of the Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) appropriations bills rolled into an omnibus for the remainder for FY15, plus a continuing resolution (CR) funding the Department of Homeland Security through February 2015. The funding measure had narrowly passed the House on Thursday night in a 219-206 vote, only after a last-minute lobbying effort by President Obama, members of the congressional leadership, and various communities, including higher education, urging members to pass the bill.
 
Below is a summary from the Association of American Universities on how higher education priorities fared in the spending package.
 
Research Agencies

National Institutes of Health: NIH is funded at $30.1 billion, an increase of $150 million. The agency will also receive $238 million from the $5.4 billion emergency package to fight Ebola, which will be used for clinical trials to evaluate potential vaccines and therapies.

 
National Science Foundation: NSF will receive $7.3 billion, an increase of $172 million. Within that increase, Research and Related Activities will increase by $124 million to $5.933 billion and Education and Human Resources by $19.5 million to $866 million. Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction will receive a modest increase of $760,000 to $200.7 million.
 
NASA: The space agency will be funded at $18 billion, an increase of $364 million. Within that increase, NASA Science will increase by $93 million to $5.244 billion, Aeronautics by $85 million to $651 million, and Space Technology by $10 million to $596 million. Education will be funded at $119 million and Space Grant at $40 million.
 
Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science: The Office will be level-funded at $5.071 billion, as will ARPA-E at $280 million.
 
The National Endowment for the Humanities: Funding for NEH will remain flat at $147 million.
 
Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: AFRI will receive $325 million, an increase of $9 million above the FY14 level.
 
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: The USPTO is funded at $3.5 billion, the estimated amount of fees the Office is expected to collect in FY15. The total is an increase of $434 million over FY14. The bill also maintains a provision that allows the Office to use any excess collected fees, subject to congressional approval.
 
Defense Basic Research: Although the Administration requested an overall cut of seven percent in defense basic research, the bill provides an overall increase of $257 million, or five percent, for non-medical basic research. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will receive $31 million of the increase.
 
Student aid
 
Pell Grants: The measure provides $22.5 billion for Pell Grants and allows the maximum award to increase by $100 to $5,830 in the next academic year because of an automatic mandatory increase in funding. The bill does not include Senator Tom Harkin's (D-Iowa) proposal to reallocate $2 billion of the Pell Grant surplus to other programs, but it does cut $300 million from the program, with some of that funding going toward student loan servicing. Pell Grants will once again be available to students who have not completed high school but are enrolled in a career-training program, as part of the "ability to benefit" provision.
 
Other Higher Education and Student aid programs
 
Federal Work-Study will be increased by $15 million, TRIO programs by $1.5 million, and the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights by $1.6 million. Funding for both Gear-Up and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants is frozen. The First in the World program is cut by $15 million. There is no funding for the Administration's proposed college rating system.