Proposed bill would cut funds

Rachel Abbey

Budget reconciliation: it means cuts in government spending for programs such as Medicaid, foster care programs and student financial aid.

“The budget reconciliation bill is a very neutral descriptor for a bill that shifts funding effectively out of higher education and into deficit funding,” Provost Paul Gaston said.

This bill tries to balance the federal government’s budget, said Constance Hawke, director of federal relations and associate university counsel. To do this, Congress is cutting spending in many different areas, including higher education.

The House of Representatives and the Senate have both passed versions of the bill, Hawke said. Now they need to reach an agreement on versions and amendments.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, both bills approved $12.7-billion cuts from student loan programs, about one-third of the total proposed cuts. Separate appropriation bills also in Congress will freeze or reduce federal funding for research and student-aid programs.

Tim Ryan, 17th district representative in the House, said he doesn’t think the fundamental cuts in the reconciliation bill would change at this time. It will probably pass with cuts in some essential programs.

The House has not yet taken action in regard to the Senate’s latest version of the bill, but returns from recess today.

Hawke said an agreement will probably be reached in the next month, and will be signed in February or March. The president could then sign the cuts into law.

“This bill would impact the overall funding,” Hawke said. “The Higher Education Bill handles the nuts and bolts of student financial aid. This sort of sets the outside funding.”

The Higher Education Act sets guidelines for most aspects of higher education. The act’s renewal is about two years overdue and it will likely be pushed back again, Hawke said, while the budget bill moves forward.

The reconciliation bill is strongly tied to the Higher Education Act, Gaston said, because it addresses many of the financial issues that would usually be covered under the act. It’s hard to predict whether the act will pass this year, Gaston said, but experts say it doesn’t look good.

The Higher Education Act has been renewed about every seven years with few problems, Gaston said. Talks have been going on for almost three years with no end in sight this time because, Gaston said, of the government’s political divide.

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