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Education-Spending Bill Advances in the Senate


The Chronicle of Higher Education - June 14, 2012 - by Kelly Field

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill on Thursday that would increase the maximum Pell Grant by $85 in the 2013 fiscal year and give $100-million more in funds to the National Institutes of Health.

Most other student-aid and work-force programs would receive flat financing in the legislation, which passed a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday. International and foreign-language programs would see a slight increase, from $74-million to $75.7-million, in the bill, which covers the fiscal year that begins on October 1.

The measure would provide $40-million for the Obama administration's proposed "First in the World" competition, which would allow colleges to test new approaches to education.

Before approving the bill, lawmakers adopted an amendment that would restore eligibility for federal financial aid to students without high-school diplomas or GED's who have passed an "ability to benefit" test. Congress ended aid to such students last year in a spending bill for the 2012 fiscal year, as part of a plan to shield the Pell program from cuts.

Lawmakers also restored $50.72-million in funds for the Math and Science Partnership program, cutting "Race to the Top" spending for elementary and secondary education by an equal amount. The program provides grants to projects to improve mathematics and science education through partnerships between colleges and high-need school districts.

Both amendments still face votes by the full Senate and the House of Representatives. A House Appropriations panel is tentatively scheduled to draft its version of the bill next week.