The Senate Committee on Appropriations has approved the Fiscal Year 2018 Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Bill, which as part of its overall package, will dedicate $68.3 billion in funding to the U.S. Department of Education. A previous proposal by President Trump, to cut spending from the Education Department, was denied when the Senate Subcommittee voted unanimously to increase overall education spending to the tune of $29 million.
More specifically, the bill promotes higher education affordability with a discretionary increase in Pell grants, from $5,920 to $6,020—the first in over 10 years. According to the Senate Committee, “This discretionary increase ensures the maximum award will continue to increase next school year to help students keep up with rising costs and reduce the need for student loans.”
The proposed bill also adds funding to the Year-Round Pell Program, which allows students to receive up to 150 percent of grants over a whole year, not just the fall and spring semesters. The new grant is designed to add $1,600 annually to allow students to pursue higher education year-round, in hopes of finishing up degree programs faster. The bill also outlines a plan to restore Pell aid for defrauded students and those attending colleges or universities that have closed.
Also, as reported by Inside Higher Ed, the 269 institutions accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools have been granted an additional 18-month extension to find new accreditors. ACICS is an accrediting agency that mostly recognizes for-profit schools. In December of 2016, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it would no longer recognize ACICS, and gave schools 18 months to find valid accreditation. Under the new funding bill, schools recognized by ACICS now have 36 months, from December of 2016, to find new accreditation.
Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Roy Blunt said, “The bill also continues building on our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and make college more affordable. I urge all of my Senate colleagues to support this measure when it reaches the floor.” The bill awaits a final vote from the entire U.S. Senate.
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