U.S. House Committee Passes Spending Bill

Las week the U.S. House Appropriations Committee passed an education funding bill for fiscal year 2017. The action comes one month after the Senate unveiled an education funding bill.

Pell Grant

Unlike the Senate bill, the House would not restore year-round Pell Grants, but like the Senate, the Pell Grant maximum award is projected at $5,935 for AY 2017-18, an increase of $120, which is subject to change based on fluctuations in inflation, as defined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  Finally, the House bill allocates the lowest overall dollar amount to the Pell Grant Program since FY 2010 and represents a decrease of $1.3 billion from FY 2016.

Other Provisions

The House bill includes a number of other provisions.

  • Level-funding for FY 2017 for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work Study (FWS)
  • A $60 million increase in funding for TRIO Programs
  • An increase in funding of $1.25 billion over FY 2016 levels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Several higher education policy provisions, including provisions to block the gainful employment, teacher preparation program, credit hour, and state authorization regulations.

The bill will next be considered by the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (“Labor-H”) Appropriations Subcommittee.

U. S. Senators Introduce Dual Credit Bill

U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced legislation last week to give more high school students the opportunity to take career and technical education college courses that can help prepare them for success in the 21st century. The Workforce Advance Act will help strengthen and expand dual and concurrent enrollment and early college high school options as part of Perkins-supported career technical education (CTE) programs. Strong CTE programs can provide vital access to the knowledge and skills needed for job and career success.

The Workforce Advance Act encourages states to examine how they can expand access to CTE dual and concurrent enrollment and early college high school courses. The bill would:

  • Allow states to invest leadership dollars in expanding access and supporting teachers and districts to increase the number of courses offered,
  • Encourage districts to strengthen CTE programs by incorporating college credit opportunities,
  • Use a portion of the funding they receive through the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act for tuition and fees for CTE college courses and use funding to support teachers pursuing the credentials needed to teach these courses in their high schools, helping to remove a barrier to providing access to college credit, and
  • Allow the Department of Education to use national CTE activities to help identify successful methods and best practices for providing dual or concurrent enrollment programs and early college high school career and technical education opportunities.

House Passes Series of Higher Education Bills

This week the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce passed five higher education bills.

The passage of these bills marks the first action on higher education from the education committees in both the U.S. House and the Senate.  It is expected that these bills will pass the U.S. House but are unlikely to be considered by the U.S. Senate.

Prior-Prior Year Income

Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act (HR 5528) would make permanent in the law prior-prior year income moving forward; advance efforts to simplify the FAFSA, including making the FAFSA available on mobile devices, requiring regular reports from the Department of Education (ED) on FAFSA simplification progress, and strengthening and solidifying an additional simplification tool: the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Retrieval tool (DRT); and modify a small provision in current law that would facilitate the earlier release of final Pell Grant numbers from ED, giving colleges the opportunity to provide accurate scholarship and grant information much earlier.

Counseling

Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (HR 3179) would implement new requirements designed to ensure that students make informed decisions when accepting federal loans and Pell Grants. The bill would change the current one-time entrance counseling requirement for student loans into an annual counseling requirement that must be completed before the student accepts the loan(s). Under this provision students must, annually, actively accept every loan by either signing a Master Promissory Note or signing a statement accepting the loan. The required content of exit counseling would be expanded to include more borrower-specific information and annual counseling for Pell Grant recipients prior to the first disbursement of a Pell Grant in an award year would be required.

College Dashboard

Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (HR 3178) would eliminate the College Navigator and its associated affordability and transparency lists, and state higher education charts released by ED. In its place would be a College Dashboard Website, which would be developed and maintained by ED. The Dashboard would include institutional-level information related to: basic institutional facts, such as its sector and web address; enrollment; completion rates; costs; financial aid; and cohort default rates.  The legislation would also mandate that ED include a method for Dashboard users to easily compare institutions and require institutions to ensure that net price calculators are easily identifiable and prominently posted on institutions’ websites, where cost and student aid information is already available.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

HBCU Capital Financing Improvement Act (HR 5530) aims to improve the HBCU Capital Financing Program, which was created by Congress to provide low-cost capital to finance improvements to campus infrastructure at HBCUs. The bill enables ED to help schools understand what financial resources are available.

Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs)

Accessing Higher Education Opportunities Act (HR 5529) focuses on promoting access to education for Hispanic students and aiding Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).The bill would increase the flexibility of current law to allow HSIs to use grant funds to encourage post-baccalaureate students to enroll in doctoral degree programs that prepare students for health care occupations and allow HSIs to use grant money to support developing or growing dual and concurrent enrollment programs.