NASFAA Highlights Change That Could Allow for Earlier Release of Pell Grant Schedules

Janette Martinez, NASFAA 2016 DME Policy Intern

With the earlier availability of the FAFSA and the introduction of prior-prior year (PPY) income data, students and families have the opportunity to receive notification of their federal financial aid awards earlier than ever. However, to achieve the desired impact of the earlier availability of the FAFSA, institutions should also be able to report accurate awards earlier. One important factor that could deter schools from providing earlier award letters is the January release of Pell Grant payment and disbursement schedules.

Currently, a clause in the Higher Education Act (HEA) requires the Department of Education (ED) to use the December Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) measure of inflationary changes in prices paid for goods, known as the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U).

BLS releases December’s CPI-U in mid-January. Relying on that number, ED releases Pell schedules shortly thereafter. In 2016, ED released the 2015-2016 academic year Pell schedules on January 29. If the current timeline stays in place, final Pell schedules won’t be released until almost four months after the FAFSA opens. Therefore, NASFAA suggested that Congress should revise the month ED must use to determine the inflation adjustment add-on to Pell, so it can release Pell schedules sooner, and institutions may be able to send out award letters earlier with accurate Pell Grant numbers.

As institutions have worked toward implementation of PPY, one of the consistent pieces of feedback brought forward is that Pell schedules need to be released sooner. NASFAA then examined limitations at ED that prevented the earlier release of Pell schedules before developing this minor – but potentially significant – recommendation for change in statute.

Keep an eye on Today's News for more on the topic as it becomes available.


Publication Date: 6/21/2016

Russell J | 6/21/2016 2:53:07 PM

This only makes sense ... with Congress pushing for standardization of award letters and PPY (earlier notices), it will be interesting to see if Congress pushes for earlier BLS month for said measurement. Sherwin, you bring up good thoughts regarding careful analysis of corollary items ... perhaps this should have been utilized prior to PPY ... hmmmmm!

Sherwin H | 6/21/2016 9:30:59 AM

The implementation of PPY will likely be a good thing in the long run. But, the fact that it is being executed without going through the appropriate legislative and regulatory processes will undoubtedly result in the discovery of corollary items such as the clause in the HEA about the development of the Pell Grant Payment and Disbursement Schedules that have not been appropriately addressed in conjunction with the applicable laws and regulations impacting student aid, and specifically, implementation of the early FAFSA and use of PPY. There is something to be said for the methodical approach to the Reauthorization of the HEA where each detail of the Act has to be looked at for the impact on other interdependent sections of the legislation.

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