NAICU Washington Update

Introduction by Barbara Mistick

November 19, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Sandwiched between a lengthy filibuster by the House Republican leader last night and the looming Thanksgiving holiday break, the House of Representatives this morning passed President Biden’s $1.7 trillion dollar Build Back Better reconciliation bill by a vote of 220-213.

The House activity was also spurred by the release of the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) full cost estimate for the package. That estimate reassured certain Democrats that the bill is sufficiently paid for over 10 years.

For student aid and higher education, the CBO estimate also confirmed that the cost of the $550 increase in the Pell Grant maximum award is $12.3 billion over four years. The bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to begin debate after Thanksgiving. You can read more about the bill and next steps in our lead story below.


  • The long legal battle over the OSHA vaccine or testing mandate for large employers has moved to its next phase. Based on a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, OSHA has suspended enforcement of its rule. Additionally, the deadline by which federal contractors must comply with the recent Executive Order requiring vaccine mandates for employees has been extended to January 18, 2022. There are many questions that remain unanswered. We cover more details in our second story below. Additionally, we hosted a webinar (recording and presentation slides) earlier this week with legal experts to help answer as many questions as possible. We will continue to keep you updated as the legal process unfolds.

In addition to reporting on the passage of the Build Back Better bill and the status of the OSHA mandates, today’s Washington Update features stories on a hearing in the House that looked at how COVID relief funds for K-12 and higher education have been spent, and an effort within higher education to increase international student enrollment. 

Double Pell

“Our colleagues in Congress can do their part by taking a step that is proven to be successful and that will immediately help make an invaluable college degree obtainable for more students: doubling Pell Grants. Lawmakers have an opportunity right now to make a bipartisan investment in the American economy by doubling Pell Grants as part of the proposed spending bill under negotiation. Doubling this aid will not only help a wider pool of students afford college, it will help current aid recipients stay on track for graduation. Doubling Pell Grants is not only a smart investment that benefits the entire country, it’s the right thing to do.”

Stephen Thorsett, president, Willamette University (excerpted from his recent op-ed published in the Statesmen Journal, Salem, OR)

President Thorsett is absolutely correct. The Pell Grant is an incredibly smart investment, in a proven program, that will have wide-ranging benefits for students, families, and the country.

I know I have asked a lot of you during the past several months in our efforts to advocate for doubling the Pell Grant. The engagement I’ve seen and the impact that it is having has been so affirming and energizing. We will have a short break for the Thanksgiving holiday, but will resume our efforts and continue applying pressure toward additional Pell increases. 

Washington Update will also be taking a break next week for the Thanksgiving holiday. If there is any late-breaking news from Washington next week, we will certainly notify you. Otherwise, Washington Update will return on December 3.

As educators, we have much to be thankful for. I hope you and your campus community have a healthy and safe Thanksgiving holiday. 

Barbara K. Mistick, D.M.
President, NAICU

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