On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its fiscal year (FY) 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill by a bipartisan vote of 29-1. The bill, which was covered in Today’s News on Tuesday, would restore the year-round Pell Grant.
Importantly, the bill would reinstate year-round Pell with two key modifications to the previous version in effect in award years (AY) 2009-10 and 2010-11. First, the bill would allow institutions to determine the assignment of crossover periods in the case of a student who receives a Pell Grant for a payment period that spans two award years. Second, the bill does not include an “acceleration” component. Both of these adjustments represent positive news for the financial aid community. The language of the bill is similar to the Year-Round Pell Grant Restoration Act, a bill authored by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and supported by NASFAA.
“Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee made an important commitment to supporting student access and completion in higher education by approving an appropriations bill that includes the reinstatement of the year-round Pell Grant,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger, following the bill’s successful passage out of committee. “We applaud the committee for this bipartisan effort that not only prioritizes the needs of the nation’s diverse student population, but also remedies some of the implementation challenges that existed in the previous iteration.”
The accompanying committee report, a document that provides more context to the spending bill, specifically acknowledges some of the concerns of financial aid administrators from the last experience with year-round Pell.
“The committee intends the expanded eligibility to be implemented in such a way to maximize flexibility for institutions of higher education and avoid unnecessary administrative burdens associated with the previous implementation of year-round Pell grants, while still ensuring the best interests of students,” the report notes.
As previously reported, the bill would level-fund the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work-Study programs, and projects a $5,935 maximum Pell Grant award for AY 2017-18.
In more troubling news, the bill reallocates $1.2 billion from the $7.8 billion Pell Grant Program surplus for use outside of student aid, a move that sets a dangerous precedent moving forward.
The bill could see action on the Senate floor before Congress goes on its summer recess beginning on July 18. The House is expected to take up its education spending bill on June 22. As always, NASFAA will continue to monitor the budget and appropriations process with continued updates in Today’s News.
To learn more about the process, visit NASFAA’s Budget and Appropriations Page for background information and a news archive.
Publication Date: 6/10/2016