UPDATE May 15, 2019: The House Appropriations Committee last week passed its fiscal year 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-H) spending bill, which included a $150 boost to the maximum Pell Grant, and allocated $5 million to continue the open textbook pilot within the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, among other changes. In its report on the spending bill, the committee also said it would encourage the Department of Education (ED) to "work with institutions of higher education to ensure" they are providing students with information about community service-based opportunities for the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program. Additionally, the committee wrote in the report that it would direct ED to update the borrower defense to repayment report on Federal Student Aid's (FSA) Data Center each month, and to within 60 days of the enactment of the bill to provide the number of claims and total amount of loans covered by those claims by school and institutional type. With regard to school closures, the committee would require ED to submit a report within 90 days "outlining its plan to prevent precipitous closures in the for-profit sector," to publish on the FSA Data Center a list of schools with a letter of credit in fiscal years 2017 to 2019, and to within 90 days outline "the process through which it approves or disapproves of a for-profit institution's conversion to not-for-profit status and a list of any staff involved in such decisions."
The House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday cleared a fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bill with almost half a billion dollars in increased support for the federal student aid programs, though final allocations are far from settled. In total, the bill would provide $4.4 billion above the FY 2019 enacted level for the Department of Education (ED), $11.9 billion above President Donald Trump’s budget request.
“Today we are recommending historic investments in our people, in our country and in programs that each of our constituents support. I am proud to do so and to help finally meet our obligations to children, for child care, to education, to science and health care for all,” said Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). “For too long, working people and middle-class families of this country have been shortchanged. So, this Committee is moving ambitiously to make up for lost ground and to make sure that we provide every individual with a better chance at a better life.”
The bill, which would impact award year 2020-21, significantly increases the resources for the subcommittee’s allocation, drawing some concern from Republicans on the subcommittee.
"While it's easy to spend more money on programs we all like, such a large increase is simply not likely to be reflected in the final agreement," said Ranking Member Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK).
If enacted, the bill would increase the maximum Pell Grant by $150 to $6,345, up from $6,195 in FY 2019. The bill allocates $1.028 billion for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Program, a $188 million increase over FY 2019, or a 22% increase. The boost represents the largest funding increase in a single year in the program’s history and would take the program’s allocation over $1 billion for the first time. The 22% increase in a single year is the largest since a 26% boost in FY 1979.
Federal Work-Study (FWS) is another winner in the bill with an appropriation of $1.434 billion, a $304 million increase, or 27%, over FY 2019. The increase represents the program’s largest increase in a single year, and the largest percentage increase since FY 1997. The bill’s allocations for FSEOG and FWS match the appropriations request from NASFAA.
Not only does the bill reject the large cuts to student aid proposed in Trump’s budget earlier this year, but the bill also includes flat funding for the Student Aid Administration account after Trump requested an additional $133 million, his only proposed higher education increase, to support the Office of Federal Student Aid's (FSA) Next Generation Services Environment.
The bill includes another $350 million for the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) initiative to help borrowers in the wrong repayment plan qualify for PSLF, but removes the language that requires both the monthly payment made 12 months prior to the TEPSLF application and the payment made immediately prior to the TEPSLF application to be larger than the monthly payment amount that would have been required under an income-driven repayment plan. In effect, this would create a $350 million pool of funds with slightly looser requirements than the $700 million allocated over the last two fiscal years. Different from the past two years, the language also requires ED to notify borrowers who have submitted an Employment Certification Form but are in the wrong repayment plan about TEPSLF and the requirements to qualify. As of March 31, 2019, ED has discharged $17.5 million in loan balances for borrowers who applied for TEPSLF.
“Financial aid administrators applaud Chairwoman DeLauro and the subcommittee for the recognition of the value in the federal investment in students,” said NASFAA President and CEO Justin Draeger. “These historic boosts will take us one step closer to ensuring that lack of financial resources will not hinder a student’s efforts to pursue postsecondary education. These expansions were made possible by ensuring appropriate resources were available for domestic programs. We urge the Senate to support these investment levels in their own bill in the coming weeks.”
From here, the bill will move to the full Appropriations Committee for consideration, where the bill is expected to pass on a party-line vote. However, congressional leaders have yet to negotiate top-level spending numbers, which will be necessary before any spending bill can move beyond each individual chamber. For more information on the federal budget process, see NASFAA’s Federal Budget and Appropriations page and NASFAA’s budget FAQs.
Publication Date: 5/2/2019