NAICU Washington Update

President Expected to Sign HBCU Funding, FAFSA Simplification Legislation into Law

December 12, 2019

President Trump is expected to sign into law the FUTURE Act, a bill that permanently extends a critical funding stream for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), streamlines the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process, and slightly increases funding for the Pell Grant program.
The legislation makes changes to the FAFSA and the Internal Revenue Code to allow more data-sharing linkages between the Department of Education and the Department of Treasury. Policymakers hope these linkages will help streamline the application process for taxpayers by reducing the FAFSA form by approximately 22 questions, while also saving the federal government approximately $3 billion by eliminating miscalculated payments in Pell Grants and student loans. Those savings will be used to pay for the cost of the permanent HBCU funding stream extension. Finally, the bill provides for a $25 million increase in Pell funding.
Several hurdles were overcome in the run up to Congress passing the FUTURE Act.  For example, last September, the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation to extend a $255 million HBCU funding stream for two years. The legislation was critical, given that authorization for the funding was scheduled to expire at the end of September. However, when that legislation moved to the Senate for final passage it was blocked by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in an attempt to jumpstart broader negotiations on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA). As a result, the HBCU funding bill had sat dormant in the Senate since September while policymakers charted a path forward, even as pressure mounted to extend the funding.
Now that the FUTURE Act has been dispatched, Congress may pivot back to negotiations on a comprehensive HEA reauthorization. The College Affordability Act has already passed the House Committee on Education and Labor and awaits consideration by the full House of Representatives.  The Senate, meanwhile, continues to negotiate internally to chart a path forward.

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