Federal Relations

By Cynthia Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU

Finishing FY17 Appropriations
Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act on May 5th, which was then signed into law by President Trump. This bipartisan omnibus act was a continuation of efforts from the last session of the 114th Congress. FY17 appropriations for higher education were, for the most part, positive.

The Pell grant maximum award was increased by $105 to $5,920. With bipartisan support, the year-round Pell grant program was reauthorized and included in the act again. This program encourages students to attend classes in the summer in an effort to accelerate their graduation. Unfortunately, the Pell grant reserve fund was cut by $1.6 billion.

Some good news was the inclusion of the campus-based aid Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Federal Work Study program, both of which were level-funded at $733 million and $989 million, respectively. This will be important during reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) because Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) supports the “one grant / one loan” concept. TRIO and GearUp program funding increased by $50 million and $17 million, respectively. Even Title VI (International Education) was level-funded at $72 million.

The President’s budget for FY18 was released yesterday (new presidents are often given great latitude to present their first budget to Congress, thus the late release date). This article will be updated with information on the budget's potential impact on higher education in the days to come.

Perkins Loan Extension Bill Introduced
In a continued effort to save the undergraduate Perkins loan program, Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Jeff Duncan (R-TN), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) have introduced the Perkins Loan Extension Act. This bill would extend the undergraduate Perkins loan program for two years; it would otherwise expire at the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2017. AJCU and the Campus-Based Aid Coalition will continue to work on seeing this bill passed so that the program can be saved.  

Student Loan Rates to Increase
On July 1, 2017, the U.S. Department of Treasury will raise student loan interest rates. Undergraduate student loan interest rates will increase from 3.76% to 4.45%; graduate student loan interest rates will increase from 5.31% to 6%; and Parent PLUS loan interest rates will increase from 6.31% to 7%.

AJCU Congressional Breakfast: October 5th
Save the date: on Thursday, October 5th, AJCU will host a Congressional Breakfast on Capitol Hill for Jesuit alumni in Congress and representatives of Jesuit institutions. For more information, please e-mail or call me at CyndyLit@aol.com or (202) 862-9893. Have a terrific summer!