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GOP Spends More on Student Loans, Medical Research in 2019 Budget

Republican members of the Senate Budget Committee look over amendments during the markup of Senate's fiscal year 2018 budget resolution.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
PENNY STARR

In his 2019 proposed budget, President Donald Trump called for heavy cuts across federal agencies, including funding for student loans and medical research.

But Congress has defied Trump and included increased funding for both the Department of Education and the National Institutes for Health (NIH), according to an Inside Higher Education report citing the deal reached by the House and Senate last week.

The spending bill for fiscal year 2019, which begins October 1, would increase the Education Department’s total budget to $71.5 billion — the second year in a row Congress has boosted funding, despite calls for heavy cuts by the Trump administration.

The maximum Pell Grant would be raised by $100 to $6,195 in the agreement. Perkins Career and Technical Education grants will get $1.26 billion — a $70 million increase from the previous year.

Funding for an eligibility fix for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was extended to the tune of $350 million. The money is targeted to borrowers whose qualifying payments were counted as ineligible because of errors by their loan servicers.

The National Institutes of Health also gets a financial boost with a $38.1 billion infusion — up $2 billion from last year’s budget.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairman of the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, said the proposed budget is “bipartisan.”

“I urge all of our colleagues to join us in getting this bill across the finish line,” Blunt said in the Inside Higher Education report.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) used the “bipartisan” agreement to slam Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary. 

“The message of this bipartisan agreement couldn’t be any clearer: Democrats and Republicans once again reject Secretary DeVos’s extreme anti-public-education agenda and are fighting back against her attempts to undermine our students and public schools,” Murray said.

The spending bill — packaged with defense and other shorter funding bills will prevent a government shutdown if the budget is put in place by the September 30 deadline.

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