The House Committee on Education and Labor on Wednesday formally unveiled how it plans to allocate its pot of the $3.5 trillion budget resolution, with increased funding for the Pell Grant program, grants for tuition-free community college, tuition assistance for certain institutions, along with additional higher education investments.
While the sweeping legislation will be taken up by multiple committees, the higher education components will be primarily amended through input from members on the Education and Labor panel.
According to the committee, the bill would invest $111 billion in funding to “lower the cost of higher education.”
For the Pell Grant program the text would offer a $500 increase to the maximum grant for the 2022-23 award year in effect through 2029-30. Though larger than the small grant increases passed in recent years through the annual appropriations process, the $500 boost proposed for award year 2022-23 falls short of the $1,475 increase included in the Biden administration’s American Families Plan and the commitment to doubling Pell expressed by the president on the campaign trail and since taking office.
While the administration, as well as a number of congressional Democrats, have pledged to Double Pell, the reconciliation package may serve as a vehicle for administering a significant increase to the maximum award, even if that increase is more modest than doubling the current grant amount. Beyond the budget reconciliation process, additional funding for the Pell Grant program may move through the annual appropriations process where members are still sorting through a number of policy riders that will likely be debated throughout the fall.
The reconciliation package would also extend Pell Grant eligibility to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. While the Education & Labor Committee’s portion of the reconciliation package does not include a pathway to citizenship, further changes to immigration status could be floated should Senate procedures allow for their inclusion. The issue of expanding Pell eligibility to DACA recipients may, in part, depend on the actions of the Judiciary Committee, who received reconciliation instructions related to citizenship pathways for Dreamers.
The plan also provides tuition-free community college for eligible students beginning in award year 2023-24 and lasting for five years through 2027-28. The proposal would be covered through a combination of federal and state dollars, with the federal share starting at 100% and gradually decreasing to 80%.
The sweeping package also includes $9 billion for Retention and Completion Grants and targeted investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). Among the investments for MSIs are $2 billion for research and development, seven years of tuition assistance for students attending HBCUs and other MSIs, and additional institutional aid.
Additionally, the bill includes a provision that would count any active duty deferment periods towards the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
The Committee's proposal invests in:— Committee on Education & Labor (@EdLaborCmte) September 8, 2021
✅Lowering the cost of child care & securing universal pre-K
✅Lowering the cost of higher ed, including 2 years of tuition-free community college
✅Repairing school infrastructure
✅Expanding quality job training
✅Preventing child hunger pic.twitter.com/TtM30Y6NHt
The text will be considered by the full committee September 9 at 12:00 p.m. ET, where members will offer a number of amendments to the bill. Due to the scope of the committee, members will also delve into topics surrounding labor, childcare and workforce development.
Since no Republican votes are needed to advance or enact the measure, committee members could engage in some lengthy debate with the minority members preemptively balking at efforts to quickly advance such an expansive piece of legislation.
NASFAA will publish an in-depth analysis of the bill’s higher education provisions in the coming days. Stay tuned to Today’s News for that deep dive, as well as coverage of Thursday’s markup and more details on how the measure is amended as it moves through the committee.
Publication Date: 9/9/2021