This article details the proposed changes in the Aim Higher Act affecting the Federal Pell Grant and other federal grant programs.
TEACH Grant Program
The Aim Higher Act (AHA) expands eligibility for TEACH grant awards to include associate degree-level studies, capping the aggregate TEACH grant limit at that level at $8,000. TEACH grant eligibility is also extended to include early childhood education, adding it the current list of fields with teacher shortages that includes math, science, special education, and English language acquisition. The bill adds language to address potential design flaws in the original TEACH grant legislation that were revealed in a Department of Education (ED) report earlier this year, showing that 63 percent of TEACH grant recipients whose service obligations began between 2008 and 2014 had those grants converted to loans. Under AHA, ED would be required to notify students of deadlines for submitting employment certifications as well as when recipients have failed to submit those certifications.
Also under AHA, TEACH grant recipients would still be considered to be fulfilling their service obligation for grant eligibility in cases where their previously-eligible school loses such designation, or if their role at an eligible school changes, such as moving into coaching, counseling, or administration. ED would also be required to make public data, disaggregated by factors like race and socioeconomic status, on the number of TEACH grant recipients who fulfill their service obligations vs. those who have grants converted to loans.
Federal Pell Grants would see a one-time $500 increase to the maximum award, permanent indexing to inflation, and an alteration to the Pell funding composition by increasing the “mandatory” funding share from about 17 percent to 60 percent, thereby increasing the proportion of Pell funds not subject to the whims of the annual appropriations process. Pell lifetime eligibility limits would increase from 12 semesters to 14, which, if not fully used for undergraduate study, could be applied toward graduate studies. The ban on Pell grant eligibility for incarcerated students is lifted, and students harmed by institutional fraud or misconduct could have Pell grants received at those institutions excluded from their lifetime eligibility limits. The bill also adds Pell grant eligibility for students attending short-term job training programs with a duration of at least 150 clock hours taking place over at least 8 weeks of instruction.
Competitive Grant Programs
Early college and dual/concurrent enrollment programs could see additional funding to support their efforts under the Jumpstart to College grant program, another competitive grant created in the AHA that institutions could use to either support existing programs or create new ones. Priority would be given to programs that serve mostly low-income students and are located in states that provide assistance to dual enrollment programs, and funding could be used for activities like student support services, teacher professional development, outreach programs, and work-based learning, as well as for tuition, fees, books, and equipment.
The AHA also creates a Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa college access grant program, which would provide governors of those areas grants to award to eligible institutions that enroll students from the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa. Funds would be used to pay the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition at those institutions, of up to $15,000 per student.
Competitive grants to community colleges are also established under the Community College Student Success grant program, which will go toward developing and implementing programs designed to increase graduation rates within the 150 percent of program length window, and transfer rates.
Finally, AHA authorizes remedial education grants, to go to eligible institutions for the purpose of improving postsecondary remedial education.
Publication Date: 8/9/2018