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Recap: The 2020 Higher Ed Spending Package

On Thursday, December 12, the United States Senate approved the 2020 Education Spending Package, allocating a $1.4 trillion spending package that will boost funds for certain higher education inititatives, as per the Washington Post. Despite initial proposed cuts and concern about funding for programs such as the Federal Work Study or Pell Grants, higher-education associations and advocates are satisfied with the final budget, according to Education Dive. Efforts to ease affordability and prioritize funding for minority-serving institutions, such as historically-black colleges and universities or tribally controlled-colleges and universities, are central to the 72.8 billion in discretionary funds set aside for higher-education in the spending package. 

The spending package will pour support into designated programs and grants, and it seems affordability concerns are at the top of Congress’ agenda. Key takeaways for higher education include additional funds for the Federal Education Opportunity Grant, a program for low-income students, and an expansion of on-campus childcare programs, as per the Washington Post. Child care is more expensive than in-state tuition at public universities in 30 states, according to Child Care Aware of America, and a major goal of the funding initiative is to offer better opportunities to parents seeking an education. For campus safety leaders, funding package designations can have a direct impact on student continuity, ensuring those students with unique challenges receive the resources necessary to finish their degree 

Related Blog: How To Manage Campus Safety Amid Budget Cuts

For college or university leaders looking to understand how the spending package will impact campus life, find a recap of the key programs receiving a boost in funding below. 

How Will 2020 Higher Education Funding Be Allocated? 

Many programs will receive a renewal in funding, and more will receive an increase in funding to increase scope in the next year. Below is a breakdown of higher-education programs set to receive funds as part of the spending programs, how much assistance each will receive, and the impact an increase in funding is expected to have on campus life. Familiarize yourself with key programs outlined below to better understand how the annual education budget will be allocated in 2020. 

Community College Training Grants.The community college training grant program will set receive $40 million for the promotion of skills-development and job training on campus. In recent years, many community colleges have faced budget cuts and struggled to maintain critical programs, which train students for in-demand fields. Awards will be granted to community colleges who have demonstrated the ability to tailor training for the needs of the current workforce. 

Pell Grants & Federal Work Study. Funding for several financial-aid programs aimed at making higher education affordable will be expanded, with the Federal Work Study program receiving $50 million in additional funding and the Federal Supplemental Education Grant Program (SEOG) approved for an additional $25 million, as per Education Dive. Pell Grants, a subsidy provided by the federal government for students in-need, will be expanded, with the budget increasing the maximum grant to $6,345, up $150  from the year before. 

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Funding. Nearly $130 million, a $5 million increase from the year before, was set aside to fund the Office of Civil Rights throughout the year, which will help ensure that anti-discrimination laws are enforced on college campuses. 

Federal TRIO Programs. TRIO programs, designed to identify and provide resources for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, will receive $1.1 billion in funding, a dramatic $30 million increase, to expand its reach. Budget for GEAR UP, another program for low-income students, was at risk of being eliminated, or consolidated with TRIO, but received an individual $365 to run as a separate program. 

Funding for HBCUs, Hispanic-serving institutions, and Tribally-controlled colleges or universities. Diversity-oriented institutions will receive a boost in funding for the coming year, with $325 million (an $42 million increase from the year prior) being set aside of historically-black colleges or universities. $143 million was set aside for Hispanic-serving institutions, and $37 million (a $5 million boost from the year before) will be designated for tribally-run institutions to better serve Native American communities across the United States. 

Will The 2020 Spending Package Impact Campus Safety? 

Funding for 2020 is unlikely to have a direct impact on safety or security planning. Congress sets aside a separate funding package aimed at bolstering a national statewide security budget, and state and local governments will also set an annual budget with a separate allotment for safety tools. Private college or university campuses do not rely on state or national funding to invest in security tools, and the annual spending package will have less of a bearing on security planning. However, several budgetary plans may have an indirect impact on campus safety for students. For example, the funding for the OCR will go toward investigating reports of sexual assault, which remains a prevalent campus safety issue, and on-campus hate incidents, which have been on the rise over the last couple years, according to Inside Higher-Ed.

Related Blog: Higher-Education Institutions Conducting Campus Safety Research

Overall, taking the stress of funding an education off low-income students can also suggest a net-positive for campus safety. In May of 2019, a study found a growing campus “mental health epidemic,” with rising tuition costs amid economic uncertainty being a key cause of student stress, according to NPR.  By providing at-risk students with a financial safety-net, public college and university campuses can further mitigate the crisis, but should consider the funding just one element of a comprehensive plan to address mental health concerns. Moving forward, campus safety managers should continue to prioritize students mental health. By implementing a campus safety app, college or university leaders can provide students with an immediate, discreet means to reach help. The app also contains a resource center, which can help students identify health and counseling services available on campus, and a directory, which enables the app user to then reach out for help if needed.

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Mary Kate McGrath
Mary Kate McGrath

Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.

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