A Senate appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday began its work toward approving a funding bill for fiscal year 2018 that includes funding for labor, health and human services, and education programs. The bipartisan bill includes a $100 increase to the maximum Pell Grant award and maintains funding for other student aid programs, but would cut from the Pell Grant reserve funds.
The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee swiftly referred the bill to the full appropriations committee for a markup scheduled for Thursday. During the full committee markup, senators may introduce amendments for consideration.
"For the second year in a row, this subcommittee has come together to craft a bipartisan bill that prioritizes resources for programs that will have the most benefit for the most Americans," said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairman of the subcommittee.
The bill includes additional discretionary funding to ensure the maximum Pell Grant award increases in the next academic year, from $5,920 to $6,020, a 1.7 percent increase. The increase would partly offset the loss of the mandatory annual inflation adjustment to the maximum award, which ended in 2017. However, the bill also proposes rescinding $2.6 billion from the approximately $8 billion Pell Grant surplus fund.
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work-Study (FWS) programs would remain level-funded for the next year. Additionally, the bill will include language "ensuring competition in student loan servicing, to promote accountability and high-quality service for student borrowers," according to a summary of the bill. Full text of the legislation is yet to be released.
Overall, the bill appears to be a rejection of President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which included deep cuts to several student aid programs, the elimination of others – such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and FSEOG – and a $3.9 billion cut to the Pell reserve.
"This is a bipartisan compromise and not the bill that either of us would have written on our own, but I am glad that [Sen.] Blunt and I were able to work together to protect many critical investments in students, workers, women, families, and the economy," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the subcommittee. "While I support this bill as a compromise and the best we can do given the inadequate investment levels we’ve been given, it underscores the need for us to keep working toward another budget deal to increase investments in people, communities, and economic growth. But this bill is a good first step and a strong foundation for continued bipartisan work."
Publication Date: 9/7/2017