Legislative Activity

Pell Grant Report

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report examining the recent growth of the Pell Grant Program and policy options to address the cost of the program. As lawmakers look to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in the coming year, there is no doubt the cost of the Pell Grant Program will be a target for fiscal conservatives who think the 158 percent increase in Pell Grant spending since 2006 is too much. In addition to listing alternative methods for keeping college affordable for low-income students, specific Pell Grant policy options reviewed by the CBO report authors include:

  • Reducing the number of grant recipients;
  • Reducing the amounts of the grant awards;
  • Increasing the grant amounts; and
  • Simplifying eligibility criteria and the grant application.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, September 10: The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing titled “Education Research: Exploring Opportunities to Strengthen the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).” It is possible the House will consider introducing legislation this fall to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA), which created the IES in 2002.
  • Wednesday, September 11: As part of the Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee of House Education and the Workforce Committee series on college affordability, the subcommittee will hold a hearing titled, “Supporting Higher Education Opportunities for America’s Servicemembers and Veterans.”

Regulatory Activity

Gainful Employment Regulations

The Department of Education released draft language on August 30 for a proposed new gainful employment regulation. The draft would apply to nearly twice as many programs as the earlier rule and could make it more difficult for some to satisfy the debt-to-earnings ratio requirements, but would apply the calculations to Title IV students only. Additionally, according to a discussion draft comparing the new draft regulation to the earlier rule thrown out by a federal court last year, the new rule would omit the loan-repayment criteria not upheld by the court. The three day period for negotiated rulemaking begins today, Monday, September 9, with a second session to follow October 21-23.

Back to school bus tour

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will kick off his annual back-to-school bus tour today in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The theme of the tour is “Strong Start, Bright Future,” and will focus on issues related to education and immigration. The Secretary will then travel to Albuquerque, Columbus and Socorro in New Mexico; Tucson, Scottsdale, Yuma, Tempe and Phoenix in Arizona; El Paso, Texas; and Chula Vista, California. According to the Department of Education, Secretary Duncan plans to discuss universal preschool, college affordability, ConnectED, first-term education efforts, career and technical education (CTE), as well as comprehensive immigration reform while on the tour.