Congress this fall significantly bumped up funding for some top University of Maryland research priorities while expanding student aid and maintaining important programs that were previously targeted for deep cuts or elimination.

The increase resulted from a February budget deal that lifted caps on both defense and non-defense spending by $153 billion for fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1. Congress must still pass seven remaining appropriations bills that include additional programs of interest to the university, including one that funds the National Science Foundation.

“We are pleased to see this increased investment in federal research and development, which will allow our university to continue the pursuit of research-based solutions to issues of national importance,” Vice President for Research Laurie Locascio said.

Among legislative highlights so far:

*The National Institutes of Health budget rose 5 percent over fiscal year 2018 to $39 billion. The appropriation marks the fourth year in a row that Congress has provided NIH with a multibillion-dollar increase. Since 2015, the NIH budget has climbed 30 percent.

*The Department of Energy’s Office of Science received $6.56 billion, a 5 percent increase over 2018. Congress also provided a $13 million (3.6%) increase to the Advanced Research Projects-Energy (ARPA-E).

*Congress gave the Department of Defense, the No. 1 agency in terms of federal research support for UMD, $16 billion in funding for Defense Science and Technology, up 7 percent from 2018. Within that funding, basic research was up 8 percent, applied research rose 7 percent, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) saw its budget grow nearly 12 percent.  

Congress also increased support for important financial aid programs:

*The maximum Pell grant award for low-income students rose $100 to $6,195. Nearly 20 percent of UMD students have been Pell Grant-eligible in recent years.

*For a second year in a row, Congress rejected the proposal to eliminate Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

*Congress maintained funding at last year’s levels for Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Federal Work Study, increased funding for the TRIO program by 5 percent, to $1.06 billion, and provided a nearly 3 percent increase for the GEAR UP program, to $360 million.

"The Maryland Congressional delegation played a key role in passing these increases in research and education funding of priority to the university and our community,” said Virginia Meehan, UMD's director of federal relations. "This funding will help more students realize the dream of a college education and support our growing research enterprise."