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AAU Praises House NIH Funding Proposal, Expresses Concern About Student Aid Cuts, Urges Restoration of Year-Round Pell Grants


Following is a statement by Association of American Universities (AAU) President Mary Sue Coleman on the draft FY17 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill released today.

The FY17 bill the House Labor-HHS-Education appropriations subcommittee will mark up tomorrow contains a significant increase in funding for biomedical research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) but also would potentially shortchange college students and their families who rely on student aid.

We are very pleased with the additional funds devoted to NIH. This increase should help Congress rebuild the nation’s investment in biomedical research after years of flat funding. With the Senate Appropriations Committee already having approved its own significant funding increase, this bill reflects bipartisan, bicameral support for NIH research that seeks cures and improves quality of life for millions of patients. We appreciate the hard work of subcommittee chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) and ranking Democrat Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in making this increase possible.

At the same time, we are disappointed that the House bill, unlike the bill approved by the Senate committee, does not restore the year-round Pell Grant. The loss of the year-round Pell Grant has affected the ability of approximately one million full-time low-income students to attend college throughout the year and reduce their time-to-degree. It is our hope that the Senate proposal to restore year-round Pell will be included when FY17 appropriations are finalized.

While we await final details, we are concerned that the draft House bill also includes an overall cut to other federal student aid programs. At a time when we need to improve access to college, this would be a move in the wrong direction.We hope to learn more details as the process advances.

We believe it is critical that Congress complete the FY17 appropriations and not resort to a full-year continuing resolution. Otherwise, the promise of a significant funding increase for NIH, any prospect for restoring the year-round Pell Grant, and potential increases to other important federal research agencies will likely be lost. We urge Congress to continue moving forward with the appropriations process and to complete its work at the earliest possible date.