The good news is that the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would enlarge the federal financial aid programs on which millions of students rely.
HR 2740 is designed to fund programs run by several federal departments, including Education. It would have the following effects on four of the nation’s biggest student aid programs:
• Pell Grant: The maximum Pell Grant for high-need undergraduates would increase to $6,345, a $150 upsurge for that award’s maximum in academic year 2020-21 (corresponding expansions would occur for needy students receiving smaller Pell Grants). That’s $150 more than what’s called for in the President’s budget proposal, which would leave Pell Grant amounts unchanged.
• Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG): The President proposed to cancel all funds for SEOG, which augments Pell Grants by up to $4,000 for the absolutely neediest undergraduates. Instead, HR 2470 would raise 2020-21 SEOG funding by $188 million, to $1 billion.
• Federal Work-Study (FWS): HR 2740 would appropriate $1.4 billion for FWS in 2020-21. This would be $304 million more than current FWS funding; and $934 million above the President’s FWS recommendation. FWS provides part-time jobs to help college and university students needing financial assistance work their way through school.
• Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): The President’s budget proposal would eliminate PSLF for those whose first federal loans get made July 1, 2020, or later. The House bill contains no such provision, so it would keep PSLF going for future borrowers.
One byproduct of all this is HR 2740’s capacity to help all undergraduates needing money for college — even those who don’t qualify for Pell Grants, SEOGs, and FWS. More money for students relying on these federal programs will leave more state and institutional grant funds for all needy students.
The bad news is that, when HR 2740 passed the House by a 226 – 203 vote, all the “yes” votes came from Democrats while all 196 House Republicans present voted “no” and now HR 2740 goes to the Republican-controlled U.S Senate.
So HR 2740 is likely to be amended to devote less to student aid. After a House-Senate conference committee negotiates to resolve the differences, Congress will pass the final bill and send it to the President, who may or may not sign it into law.
If you want Washington to increase financial aid, contact your U.S. Senators and tell them so. Their email addresses and office phone numbers are at https:www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm. Make the effort! You really can make a difference!
Got questions about financial aid programs and how they’re funded? Contact College Affordability Solutions for information.