December spending bill leaves higher education officials optimistic about funding

funding-billColleges and universities will have a richer 2016, thanks to the omnibus spending bill Congress passed in December. Along with more Pell grant money for the neediest students, the law increases funding for research in health, energy and agriculture.

A $2 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health “is a tremendous and exciting event for us,” said Joanna L. Groden, vice dean for research of the Ohio State University College of Medicine. Research dollars had been flat for years, she said, and the increase could put research programs back on the path of growth.

Of special interest to Ohio State are increases of around 5 percent for the National Cancer Institute and the Food and Drug Administration. Researchers nationwide will have a larger pool of funds for which to compete. That means a better chance of funding for any one proposal, including several that Ohio State already has in the approval-process pipeline, Groden said.

The law also addresses federal financial aid, both in terms of dollars and rules for its use. It keeps in place Obama-administration rules that would bar federal aid for vocational programs at for-profit and other colleges that can’t show that their graduates find “gainful employment.”

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