House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Senate Republicans blocked the inclusion of a provision that would have restored the money, which has been set aside for tribal colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions and historically black colleges and universities since 2008. Those schools often use the funding for science, technology, engineering and mathematics — STEM programs — and for scholarships and to improve facilities.
“Senate Republicans’ insistence on playing politics on the backs of six million students and hundreds of schools is a sad statement of their values,” Pelosi said in a statement Monday. “It is profoundly disappointing and deeply shameful that the Senate GOP has yet again turned their back on America’s young people and these historic institutions.”
Senate Democrats have tried five times to advance legislation — dubbed the FUTURE Act — that Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) introduced to extend the $255 million in spending, with each attempt thwarted by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
The House approved its version of the bipartisan bill, sponsored by Reps. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) and Mark Walker (R-N.C.), on a voice vote. The legislation would pay for a two-year extension of the funding by eliminating a subsidy for guaranty agencies that insure some federal student loans.
“The House proposal is based on a budget gimmick, which would make it difficult to pass the Senate and would create a new funding cliff for these colleges within a matter of months,” Alexander said in a statement Tuesday. “My bipartisan package that Senate Democrats blocked also includes simplifying the … federal [financial] aid application that 8 million minority students fill out each year and Pell grants for short-term programs.”
Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has argued that Congress should work on a long-term solution as part of a package of higher-education proposals he introduced this year. With money from the current appropriation for the schools set to carry over into the next year, Alexander has said there is time to address the issue in comprehensive legislation.
However, the uncertainty about future funding is already causing consternation among schools. The United Negro College Fund received dozens of letters from historically black colleges relating how the disruption in funding will harm their schools. Many anticipate cuts to academic programs, staffing and scholarships.
Thurgood Marshall College Fund President Harry L. Williams said the organization, which supports historically black institutions, is disappointed that Congress did not include the funding in the continuing resolution. Still, he said, the organization will “continue to work with congressional leaders to ensure this funding — which enjoys bipartisan and bicameral support — is restored to these life-changing institutions and the students they serve.”