NAICU Washington Update

Introduction by Barbara Mistick

October 29, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

I know I’ve written it before and I am writing it again. It has been an eventful week in Washington. The big news is the Democrats seem to have finally reached an agreement on the reconciliation bill. However, even if the bill passes, there will be plenty of contentious days ahead.

The headline for private, nonprofit higher education in the President’s Build Back Better package is the $550 increase in the maximum Pell Grant, for the next four years, guaranteed on top of any regular funding increases. (Here is the statement I released yesterday.) It is a remarkable achievement to see the Pell Grant maximum increase by ten percent in a bill in which overall funding was cut in half and all higher education funding could have been lost. While we would have liked to see a larger increase, this show of support is a positive step toward our goal of doubling the Pell Grant maximum.

There was also a substantial boost to federal support for HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs, with $6 billion added to the regular programs for these institutions and another $3 billion in new research and infrastructure funding through the higher education provisions of the bill (with over a billion dollars of additional dollars also available through other federal agencies).

Should the bill pass, and if the infrastructure bill from last summer also gets approved, the next big bill will be completing federal funding for the coming year in the regular appropriations process. This is the frontier on which we will be asking you to help us push for an additional $400 increase in the Pell Grant maximum, as proposed in the House and the Senate. But the annual funding bills will require bi-partisan support in the Senate to reach 60 votes, and so Republicans, who are not expected to support the reconciliation bill, will have a bigger role to play in that process. 

This week’s lead story below provides more details on the reconciliation package’s impact on higher education. Also this week, Washington Update is covering a Senate hearing on education benefits for veterans, and three stories related to the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.

Double Pell

“Specifically, the framework will increase the maximum Pell Grant by $550 for more the more than 5 million students enrolled in public and private, non-profit colleges and expand access to DREAMers. It will also make historic investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) to build capacity, modernize research infrastructure, and provide financial aid to low-income students. And, it will invest in practices that help more students complete their degree or credential.”

Excerpted from the Build Back Better framework released on 10/28/21

I am pleased to report that the students continue to be engaged in the #DoublePell campaign. Last week, the campaign passed the 16,000 mark in letters sent to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The campaign continues to pass milestones on student and campus community engagement. As we’ve now seen with the reconciliation package, these national advocacy efforts are paying dividends for students. 

I hope you will continue to encourage your students to lend their voices to the campaign. These student voices are so critical to the effort to educate policymakers about the profound impact the Pell Grant can have on individual lives.

In addition to NAICU’s calls for engagement, I know that so many of you are also working side-by-side with your state associations to amplify the campaign’s messages. Last week, for example, the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP) launched a concentrated state-wide two-week social media campaign with its members to continue raising awareness of and advocating for doubling Pell. As part of its #DoublePell state efforts, AICUP also created dedicated advocacy tools and resources for its membership.

We have accomplished a great deal in the few months since we’ve been advocating for increasing Pell, but there is still work left to do. This week’s activity signifies another important step in our efforts – efforts that will help so many students and families around the country.

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

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