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 House Funding Draft Would Limit Pell Grant Eligibility, Cut Other Programs 


On September 29, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education released the “chairman’s mark,” draft funding legislation for FY 2012. The fiscal year started October 1. The legislation has not been brought to the subcommittee for a formal markup session, reportedly because it did not have the support of all the panel’s Republicans. The measure would provide $153.4 billion in discretionary funding, $4 billion below comparable FY 2011 levels. The subcommittee chairman’s plan would cut funding for the Department of Education by $2.378 billion or 3.3 percent.

The draft House bill would preserve the current Pell Grant maximum of $5,550, but only by reducing Pell Grant eligibility in a variety of respects. The cuts total $2.3 billion in FY 2012 and it is estimated that more than 500,000 students would lose their grants altogether. The measure would:

  • Eliminate Pell eligibility for less-than-half-time students;
  • Lower the income protection allowances (IPAs) that govern student aid eligibility, thereby reducing the size of grants for hundreds of thousands of students;
  • Reduce the maximum number of semesters (or their equivalent) that a full-time student could receive a Pell Grant from 18 to 12.   (This limitation is prorated to a student’s enrollment status.);
  • Lower the family income that qualifies for an automatic zero expected family contribution (EFC);
  • Change the definition of untaxed income that can be included in the needs analysis calculation for student aid eligibility, thereby reducing “need” and subsequent grant eligibility; and
  • Eliminate from eligibility students who are not high school graduates and lack a G.E.D.—so called “Ability-to-Benefit” students.

The House draft spending bill, like the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee’s measure approved on September 20, would preserve funding at the FY 2011 levels for numerous community college priorities, including Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants ($736 million), Federal Work Study ($978.5 million), TRIO ($826.5 million), and GEAR UP ($302.8 million). Carl D. Perkins Act CTE and Adult Basic Education funding also were preserved at current levels; the former was a significant achievement given that the president had proposed cutting the program. However, the House measure would dramatically reduce institutional aid for minority-serving institutions, though funding for Strengthening Institutions (Title III-A of the HEA) was maintained. The biggest proposed cuts include:

  • Title V - Hispanic Serving Institutions – (from $104.4 million to $17.4 million)
  • Title III – Historically Black Colleges and Universities – (from $237 million to $152 million)
  • Title III – Predominantly Black Institutions – (eliminated, from $9.6 million)
  • Title III – Asian American Pacific Islander – (eliminated, from $3.2 million)
  • Title III – Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving – (eliminated, from $13.4 million)
  • Title III – Native American Non-Tribal Institutions – (eliminated, from $3.2 million)
  • Title III – Tribal Colleges – (eliminated, from $26.8 million)

Job training programs continue to be a target of House Republicans. The draft FY 2012 funding legislation calls for significant cuts to Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs, with language that proposes to rescind 2011 advance funding and make additional cuts for FY 2012. These cuts could total more than $2 billion for WIA in Adult Training, Dislocated Worker Assistance, and Youth Training.

No formal mark-up or vote has been scheduled on the House draft and it may never be brought before the subcommittee for action.  Rather, it will likely serve as the House Republicans’ position when House and Senate Appropriators negotiate final FY 2012 funding legislation later this year, or possibly, next year. In the interim, Congress has passed a continuing resolution (CR) to avert a government shutdown.            

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