Federal Maintenance of Effort Requirement Makes State Financial Aid Programs Vulnerable
Both the American Recovery Act (ARRA) of 2009 and the 2010 Education Jobs Fund provided federal funding for education. In exchange for accepting federal funds, both fiscal relief vehicles came with Maintenance of Effort (MOE) provisions requiring states to continue financial support for higher education institutions at certain minimum levels. However, some forms of state support, such as capital projects, financial aid, and research support are exempt from MOE calculations.
The UW received ARRA funding in the state budget in the 2010 fiscal year. As a result, MOE requirements from both federal actions helped protect higher education funding in Washington State from what may have been even deeper budget cuts. Last year, the State reduced higher education spending down to the federally-required MOE floor for fiscal year 2011. Federal MOE requirements expire after FY 2011.
Due to a state budget deficit that continues to grow, the Governor has called a special session to achieve another round of mid-year budget cuts for the current fiscal year. If the state further reduces funding for higher education, it must choose to violate the federal MOE mandate, or reduce state support for higher education activities exempt from federal MOE, primarily the State Need Grant (SNG), Washington’s need-based financial aid funding program.
In her proposed special session cuts for FY 2011, the Governor chose the latter, recommending that the state delay $76 million of SNG funding until July 1, 2011 (start of FY 2012), with institutions temporarily funding the gap to protect students. The UW’s share of this funding shortfall would be $15 million. While the Governor’s proposal assumes reimbursement on the first day of the new fiscal year, delay of this payment would require the University to cut $15 million to balance its current FY 2011 budget. In addition, given the $5.7 billion state deficit that remains for the upcoming 2011-13 biennial budget, it is not at all certain that this delayed payment would be made to institutions in 2012, when the federal maintenance of effort provision will no longer be in effect.
Any option that reduces or delays funding for higher education will impact University of Washington faculty, staff and students. The Office of State Relations and the Office of Planning and Budgeting will work hard to keep the UW community up to date on special session, and important state budget related news in the coming days.