Julu 14, 2016
In July, the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education ("LHHS") Appropriations Subcommittee approved its FY 2017 bill. This legislation, which the full House Appropriations Committee affirmed, includes a proposal to increase TRIO funding by $60 million (or 6.7%) in Program Year 2017-2018. Just a few weeks earlier, the Senate LHH Subcommittee approved a bill that proposed level-funding TRIO at $900 million. Both chambers included report language to their bills that provided direct guidance to the Department of Education regarding the timely notification of grant awards and allocation of funds. In particular, the report language (.pdf) to the House bill provided strongly worded directives to the Department:
The Committee recommends $960,000,000 for TRIO programs, which is $60,000,000 above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and the fiscal year 2017 budget request. The TRIO programs provide a variety of outreach and support services to encourage low-income, often first-generation college students to enter and complete college. Discretionary grants of up to four or five years are awarded competitively to IHEs and other nonprofit organizations. At least two-thirds of the eligible participants in TRIO must be low-income, first-generation college students.
The Committee does not include funding for the TRIO demonstration project proposed in the budget request. The Committee is disappointed with the Department's decision to sharply limit the ability of current TRIO grantees to partake of the increased funding provided in the fiscal year 2016 omnibus. In limiting additional funding only to grantees who agreed to spend the funds for a few narrow purposes dictated by the Department, the Department disregarded Congress' direction to allocate funds to all current grantees. As a result, grantees who could have taken the opportunity to use additional funds to conduct more college tours, provide salary increases for program staff, or make other program enhancements were not able to do so. The Department is directed to allocate fiscal year 2017 TRIO funding such that all current grantees receive an increase in their grant award. The Committee expects the Department to adhere to this direction and not impose additional requirements as a condition for grantees to receive these funds.
Additionally, the Department is also directed to increase the number of new grants provided for those programs that will conduct a new competition this year.
Additionally, the Committee directs the Department to announce the grant competitions and award the grants for this program in a timely manner, as well as provide sufficient time for grantees to prepare their applications.
This report language — as well as the proposed $60 million increase — reflects a clear understanding of the TRIO community's frustrations as well as the effectiveness of your advocacy in expressing your concerns.
Although both the House and the Senate Appropriations Committees have approved their FY 2017 LHHS bills, it is all but certain that neither bill will be considered on the floor of its respective chamber. Rather, the legislation will be incorporated into a larger "omnibus" package that includes several appropriations bills after the November elections. The final funding increase for TRIO could land anywhere between $0 and $60 million. The final result depends on the strength of our advocacy between now and then. Because Congress will want to move that legislative package quickly, it is important that the TRIO community take strong, consistent action NOW and continuing throughout the summer and into the fall months. These actions should include:
If you have any questions or need assistance with your advocacy efforts, please contact the COE Public Policy Team, Kimberly Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Selene Ceja (email@example.com), or phone at (202) 347-7430.