NAICU Washington Update

Final Spending Bill Includes Increases for All Student Aid Programs

December 20, 2019

The FY 2020 final spending deal, passed by Congress and expected to be signed quickly by President Trump, contains much good news for students and families paying for college. Despite the stop and start nature of the appropriations process this year, Congress was able to successfully complete its work before the end of the session and ensure that student aid funding remained  a bipartisan and bicameral priority.
Funding Increases in Student Aid Programs
  • Maximum Pell Grant Award increased by $150, to $6,345
  • Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant increased by $23 million, to $865 million
  • Federal Work Study increased by $50 million, to $1.2 billion
  • TRIO increased by $30 million, to $1.1 billion
  • GEAR UP increased by $5 million, to $365 million
While it was not increased, the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need was level-funded at $23 million.
Funding Increases in Other Programs
  • Strengthening Institutions increased by $8 million, to $108 million
  • Hispanic Serving Institutions increased by $19 million, to $143 million
  • Strengthening HBCUs increased by $42 million, to $325 million
  • Title VI International Education increased by $4 million, to $76 million
  • Teacher Quality Partnerships increased by $7 million, to $50 million
  • Child Care Access Means Parents in School increased by $3 million, to $53 million
  • Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) increased by $19 million, to $24.5 million.
In addition to these programs, the National Institutes of Health received a $2.6 billion increase in funding, bringing its total to $41.7 billion.
Increases for student aid will be available July 1, 2020 for the 2020-2021 award. Additional details are available on the House Appropriations Committee website.

The final appropriations deal divides $1.37 trillion in government spending into two packages to facilitate passage and enactment, as President Trump has stated he will not sign one all-encompassing bill. The Administration has been part of the negotiating process to achieve the final bill, thus the President is expected to sign the bills when he receives them.  Student aid is funded in the Labor-HHS-Education bill, which is part of an eight-bill combination that includes mostly domestic programs. The second package includes Defense and Homeland Security with two other smaller bills. The House and Senate both quickly approved the bills.
The Department of Education is funded at $73 billion, which is an increase of $1.3 billion over last year. Generous increases are provided throughout the bill for all areas of education, with the notable exception of funding for the Temporary Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which was cut by $300 million, to $50 million. The lack of borrowers successfully applying and qualifying for student loan forgiveness compared to the estimates resulted in this lower allocation.
It is also important to note that the $150 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award is completely paid for by existing unobligated funds in the program – aka the Pell Grant surplus. While new dollars are not being provided to increase grant aid, existing funds are going toward higher awards for low-income students.
Because the Higher Education Act has yet to be reauthorized, the bill continues the authority for the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) through 2020. It is also important to note the reemergence of funding for FIPSE, with grants provided for Career Pathways, Centers of Excellence for Veterans Students Success, Open Textbook Pilot, and the National Center for Information and Technical Support for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities.

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