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The legislative budget actions in Washington and Albany will have an impact on colleges and universities.  While the New York State budget is in place through March 2012, final action for the federal fiscal year 2011 that began on October 1, 2010 was just completed last week, and work is underway for the 2012 budget year that will begin next October.

Federal Budget
The prolonged battle to conclude the 2011 budget, a process begun in February 2010, finally ended on April 14 after down-to-the-wire votes.

Congress approved a budget that maintains the maximum Pell award at $5,550 for now, although the year-round Pell option, which offered the opportunity for Pell awards for summer attendance, was eliminated. Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) were preserved in the completed budget with a small cut. Approximately one-third of Canisius’ undergraduates (1,044) currently receive Pell grants. Nearly one in six also received SEOG awards this year.

Work on the 2012 federal fiscal year also began in earnest last week with the House’s approval of a budget plan. The House version of the 2012 budget could reduce the maximum Pell grant by up to $550 annually. Democratic leadership in the House has offered an alternative 2012 budget that would maintain the $5,550 annual maximum Pell award. The House’s 2012 budget vote is just one step on the road that will lead to specific appropriations for next year. Final action is months away.

State Budget
Although Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators wrestled with a $10 billion gap in the 2011 budget, student financial aid was not generally affected. In fact, the maximum Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award was restored to $5,000 annually, after having been cut by $87 last year. While other minor changes in TAP were implemented in the budget, cuts in higher education funding were made mainly to direct funding for colleges and universities. A 10 percent cut in Bundy direct institutional aid to independent colleges and universities will mean a $40,000 cut to Canisius during the next year. Major operational cuts of approximately ten percent were made to the SUNY and CUNY budgets.

Submitted by:  Ken Kruly, director, government relations