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Senate Panel Boosts Pentagon Research, Curbs Funding to For-Profits

07/23/2014

Inside Higher Ed. July 22, 2014.

The Senate Appropriations Committee last week passed a bill to fund the Defense Department that would increase the Pentagon's basic research budget and also place new restrictions on the flow of federal dollars to for-profit colleges. The $549.3 billion funding measure, which lawmakers on the panel approved last Thursday, includes a 5 percent increase in funding for Department of Defense basic research. Such research would receive $2.27 billion in funding for the 2015 fiscal year, which begins October 1.

The Obama administration had sought a nearly 7 percent reduction in Pentagon-sponsored research.

The Association of American Universities on Monday praised the committee for rejecting that proposed cut.  "We commend the Committee for taking another step toward closing the innovation deficit and will work to sustain this funding level as the bill advances and is ultimately reconciled with the House bill," said Hunter Rawlings, the group's president.

Separately, the panel also approved a provision, pushed by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat, that would place a new restriction on some of the federal military benefits that are used at for-profit colleges.  Durbin's language would change the so-called "90/10 rule" that caps for-profit colleges' receipt of grants and loans administered by the Education Department at 90 percent of their annual revenue. The bill would include money from the Pentagon's Tuition Assistance program as part of that cap. Such benefits, as well as veterans' educational aid, are not included in that calculation, which for-profit critics say makes them vulnerable to aggressive and predatory recruiting. For-profit industry representatives have rejected such efforts, arguing that they would reduce access to their institutions for servicemembers and veterans.