Biden’s Budget Would Boost Federal Financial Aid, HBCU Funding

The president's proposed 2023 budget calls for increasing Pell Grants for college students by more than 25% next year and doubling the award by 2029.
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Matthew Arrojas is a news reporter at BestColleges covering higher education issues and policy. He previously worked as the hospitality and tourism news reporter at the South Florida Business Journal. He also covered higher education policy issues as...
Published on March 29, 2022
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  • Biden's proposed Pell Grant increase far outpaces the investment Congress approved for 2022.
  • The proposal also includes increased spending for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.
  • Tuition-free community college isn't included in the proposal.

President Joe Biden is again pushing Congress to make major investments in higher education — and in doing so, help him keep a campaign promise in advance of the 2022 midterm elections.

Biden on Monday released his proposed federal spending budget for the 2023 fiscal year, the first step in what is likely to be a lengthy negotiation in Congress. The headlines on the $5.8 trillion proposal include record peacetime military spending and tax increases on billionaires, but the budget also takes big steps towards fulfilling one of Biden's big 2020 presidential campaign promises: doubling Pell Grant financial aid awards.

Biden's budget proposes doubling the max Pell Grant by 2029. It would start by increasing the maximum Pell Grant to $8,670 in 2023, a 25.7% increase from what Congress recently approved for the 2022 fiscal year and a 33.5% increase from 2021 maximum award levels.

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, called the proposed Pell Grant increase a "substantial down payment" towards Biden's campaign promise.

The federal Pell Grant program helps nearly 7 million low- and middle-income students attend colleges and universities each year, according to the document.

"Federal budgets are an expression of values," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. "This proposal reflects the Biden-Harris Administration's deep belief in the importance of education and the success and wellbeing of our nation's students."

Biden also proposed substantial funding increases for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), minority-serving institutions (MSIs), and low-resourced institutions, including community colleges.

The federal government would provide an increase of $752 million from 2021 levels in Biden's budget. According to the proposal, that includes $450 million in funds for four-year HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs to expand research and development capabilities.

The budget would also further invest in the Federal TRIO Programs and Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), and fund new retention and completion grants.

Education Department Assistant Secretary Roberto Rodríguez in a Monday press conference said that the budget includes $110 million to support retention and completion grants for states and school systems.

Mitchell of the American Council on Education (ACE) applauded the continued investment in these programs. However, he expressed concern over the administration's proposed cutting of crucial student aid programs such as federal work-study programs and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.

"ACE and the higher education community will be working with Congress and the administration to show why further increases in those programs are necessary and represent wise investments in the nation's human capital," he said in a statement.

Rodríguez also said that no programs are being cut or consolidated as part of this proposal. However, due to the timing of when Congress passed the 2022 fiscal year budget and when the 2023 budget was developed, there are some discrepancies. It is the department's intention to work with Congress to avoid any cuts, he said.

Other higher education priorities in the budget:

  • $200 million to start the new Career Connected High Schools Initiative that would provide grants to institutions and employers that develop career-connected coursework.
  • $95 million for colleges and universities providing affordable child care for low-income student parents, a $40 million increase from 2021 levels.
  • $2.7 billion for the Federal Student Aid office's customer service efforts, an $800 million increase from 2021 levels.

Rodríguez in the press conference also said that the Biden administration will work with Congress to make students covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program eligible for all federal student aid programs, including Pell Grants.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allows immigrants brought into the U.S. illegally as children to remain in the country. Granting these students access to federal financial aid is a priority for a coalition of higher education advocacy groups led by the American Council on Education.

The budget notably does not include tuition-free community college, another Biden 2020 campaign promise that was a priority in last year's "Build Back Better" domestic spending bill. That provision was cut from the bill in October 2021 in a bid to gain the support of Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. The cut was not enough to appease Manchin, who last December announced he could not support Build Back Better, denying Democrats the necessary 50 Senate votes required to pass the bill through reconciliation.