By Cynthia Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU
Student Aid Scores on FY18 Appropriations
The recent passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of FY18 (Omnibus bill) was a welcome relief for the higher education community. The Omnibus bill passed just before the third Continuing Resolution (CR) was set to expire on March 23, thus avoiding a government shutdown. President Trump expressed his opposition to the bill, due to its lack of border wall funding; nevertheless, he signed it into passage.
The bill saw increases to Federal student and campus-based aid programs that drew funding from discretionary and mandatory funds. The Pell grant maximum award was increased by $175, bringing the total Pell maximum amount to $6,095.
We were concerned that campus-based aid programs currently under threat of elimination, such as the Supplemental Education Opportunity (SEOG) Grant and Federal Work Study (FWS) program, might not receive funding. But members on the House and Senate Appropriations committees appeared to understand the importance of these need-based aid programs and increased the SEOG program by $107 million, bringing the total amount of SEOG funding to $840 million. The FWS program increased by $140 million, bringing its total to $1.13 billion.
Two programs geared toward first-generation students received increases in funding: the TRIO program received an increase of $60 million, and GEAR-UP received an increase of $10 million.
An additional $50 million was added to the Public Loan Forgiveness program. This was a welcome relief after it was proposed to be eliminated through the PROSPER Act (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform).
Programs that support international education were level-funded at $65.1 million. In addition, the Fulbright-Hays program was level-funded at $72 million. These important programs help us with foreign relations, and serve to bridge differences between countries.
The Teach Grant program, which many in Congress wanted to eliminate, stayed level funded at $42 million. A healthy increase of $3 billion was added to the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and $150 million was added to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The NIH increase reflects a remarkable investment in disease research.
Now that the budget agreement has been reached, the FY19 Appropriations bill will be considered throughout the spring and summer. Appropriators are now planning hearings on FY19 and accepting funding requests. The Student Aid Alliance (SAA) sent a letter to the Chairs of the Labor, Health & Human Services, Education and Appropriations Subcommittees asking for reasonable increases in FY19. AJCU remains grateful for the FY18 increases to student and campus-based aid programs. We hope to secure healthy levels again for FY19.
Students who are already registered in the DACA program are encouraged to renew their applications. It is our understanding that the Department of Homeland Security is still processing these applications. For more information, please click here.