An appropriations bill proposed by House Republicans would keep the Pell Grant maximum at $5,550 for fiscal year 2012, but part-time students would no longer be eligible for the grants.
The proposal crafted by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), chair of the Labor, Education, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, would include other changes to Pell to reduce program costs by $2.3 billion in FY12. They include:
- limiting the lifetime eligibility for Pell Grants to 12 semesters, down from 18
- eliminating eligibility for students who do not have a high school diploma or GED
- changing income protection allowances and lowering the income level (from $30,000 to $15,000) that results in an expected family contribution of zero
The scaling back on eligibility drew immediate criticism from Democrats on the subcommittee. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)—who has introduced legislation that mirrors the president’s American Jobs Act, including $5 billion for community college renovations—said the change would target students who are working while going to college and appears likely to reduce Pell Grant assistance for many in this group by hundreds of dollars.
“That seems exactly the wrong step to be taking when so many people are relying on Pell Grants to go back to school or stay in school to gain the education and skills they need for jobs in the new economy,” she said.
DeLauro noted that some of the proposed Pell changes “may have merit, as a means of improving the long-term viability of the program,” but she would like input from education experts once they have reviewed the Republican proposal.
Community college advocates were disappointed with the Republican proposal, noting they expected reforms to Pell funding last year would cover costs for the next fiscal year. In addition, changes to eligiblity would disproportionately affect community college students, many of whom attend college part time.
“We’re not happy with these proposed changes and cuts,” said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
A Senate appropriations bill passed earlier in September would also preserve the Pell maximum with no changes to eligiblity. When both chambers approve their respective bills, leaders from the House and Senate will negotiate on a compromise bill. Read more.