In a major victory for community colleges and their students, the FY 2017 omnibus appropriations bill released today by Congress reinstates year-round Pell Grants beginning with the 2017-18 award year. Restoration of year-round Pell has been a top AACC priority since its elimination in FY 2011.The omnibus bill funds federal agencies through September 30. Starting July 1, the maximum Pell Grant increases to $5,920.
The year-round Pell provision was originally included in legislation approved last year by the Senate Appropriations committee. The language allows students to receive up to 150% of their scheduled award—in other words, a 50% summer increment—in any given year. Importantly, students who attend part time or otherwise don’t complete 24 credits in the first two terms of the award year are eligible to receive an additional Pell award. Congress has directed the U.S. Department of Education to issue guidance on the implementation of year-round Pell by July 1.
The bill rescinds $1.3 billion from the Pell Grant surplus, which is $10.6 billion in FY 17. This diversion of resources from the Pell program is unfortunate, but it was widely expected. Notably, the amount taken is not a cut to the baseline appropriation for the program, and may not carry forward into future years.
Level Funding for Most Other Programs
Most other programs important to community colleges and their students were level-funded in the omnibus bill, a reflection of the overall budget climate. Level-funded programs include Perkins Career and Technical Education, Adult Education and Family Literacy, HEA Titles III and V, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Federal Work-Study, Childcare Access Means Parents in School, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act formula programs, and the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program.
The TRIO and GEAR-UP programs, longstanding favorites of House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-OK), are slated for increases of $50 million (to $950 million) and $17 million ($340 million). Department of Labor (DOL) apprenticeship grants will receive an additional $5 million ($95 million). Congress has directed DOL to increase apprenticeship opportunities for women. The bill rescinds $75 million previously appropriated for the Dislocated Workers National Reserve.
The bill is expected to be voted on by both the House and the Senate by the end of the week. We encourage you to show your support of year-round Pell by joining the national social media campaign #PellYes and telling your legislators that you support access to higher education.