Earmarks Are Back

Seven of the Appropriations Bills Approved by the House Committee Include Funding That Would Go Directly to Colleges and Universities.

The leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees announced at the beginning of 2021 that, after a 10-year suspension, they would accept requests from lawmakers for earmark spending.  This type of funding refers to a bill that specifically allocates money to a location, institution or project; the funding is commonly used to allocate money for research projects, parks, laboratories, business contracts or academic grants.  The earmarking process is meant to encourage bipartisanship, as the funding has the potential to directly benefit Democrats and Republicans. However, it appears that stronger support for earmark spending currently comes from Democrats; requests for the approved bills came from 178 total members, 126 Democrats and 52 Republicans. The main criticism of earmark spending is that the funding for the bills is collected through taxes from one community and redistributed elsewhere, and those outside the organization will ultimately receive no benefit from the spending.

The Democratic leadership of the House and Senate made notable updates to the earmark spending process, citing several weaknesses in the previous literature.  Now, all requests must be available online; lawmakers cannot have a financial interest in the project; the funding is limited to no more than 1% of discretionary spending, and funding is reserved for not-for-profit entities.

The House Appropriations Committee approved more than $272 million in funding through earmarks that would go toward projects at 228 colleges and universities.  The project funding levels span from large projects, such as $20 million for the University of Nebraska at Lincoln to assist with construction, to smaller projects, such as $350,000 to North Carolina State University for computer science professional development. According to Inside Higher Ed, “most of the projects relate to facilities and equipment upgrades, curriculum and program development, and workforce initiatives.”  Further, $186 million of the earmark funding is a part of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies bill.

In order for the colleges and universities to receive this funding, the appropriations bills must still be passed by Congress and signed by President Biden. The return to earmark funding closely aligns with President Biden’s plans and budget to increase student financial aid and research. For example, the House Appropriations Committee recently approved a bill that includes nearly $31 billion in total higher education spending for fiscal year 2022.  

If the appropriations bills pass, the selected colleges and universities may not all receive large sums of money, but they will receive additional funds that would not have been raised to support their students and community. 

For more information regarding updates to the earmark spending process, please contact Schneider Downs.

You’ve heard our thoughts… We’d like to hear yours

The Schneider Downs Our Thoughts On blog exists to create a dialogue on issues that are important to organizations and individuals. While we enjoy sharing our ideas and insights, we’re especially interested in what you may have to say. If you have a question or a comment about this article – or any article from the Our Thoughts On blog – we hope you’ll share it with us. After all, a dialogue is an exchange of ideas, and we’d like to hear from you. Email us at [email protected].

Material discussed is meant for informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice. Please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, this information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.

© 2021 Schneider Downs. All rights-reserved. All content on this site is property of Schneider Downs unless otherwise noted and should not be used without written permission.

our thoughts on
Top Risks to Consider in 2022
The Benefits of Having an Independent SAP Controls Team on Your SAP S/4HANA Project
OMB Releases 2021 Compliance Supplement
What to Know About the Latest Title IX Guidance
Universities Are Exploring New Business Models
Register to receive our weekly newsletter with our most recent columns and insights.
Have a question? Ask us!

We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a note, and we’ll respond to you as quickly as possible.

Ask us
contact us

This site uses cookies to ensure that we give you the best user experience. Cookies assist in navigation, analyzing traffic and in our marketing efforts as described in our Privacy Policy.

×