Pell Grants see significant changes in $1 trillion spending bill

Students who do not complete their undergraduate degrees in six years now will lose Pell Grant funding.

Congress has passed a $1 trillion omnibus spending measure that includes significant changes to the federal Pell Grant program. What’s more, an Obama administration proposal to create a new federal agency for ed-tech research and development received no funding in the bill.

The measure, which averted a possible government shutdown, funds 10 Cabinet agencies for fiscal year 2012. It awarded a slight increase to the Pentagon and veterans’ programs while trimming the budgets of most other domestic agencies. Democrats agreed to the cuts in exchange for dropping many policy provisions sought by GOP conservatives, such as attempts to block new rules aimed at preserving net neutrality and limiting greenhouse gases.

Missing from the legislation was funding to create a new federal agency designed to pursue breakthroughs in educational technology. Obama requested $90 million for the agency’s first year in the budget plan he sent to Congress earlier this year.

Obama’s proposal would have created an Advanced Research Projects Agency – Education (ARPA-ED), with the goal of transforming educational technology just as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has transformed military technology. But the project wasn’t funded in the budget bill passed by Congress.

The maximum Pell Grant awards for low-income college students will remain at $5,550 for students beginning college in fall 2012, but Congress has tightened its requirements for the program under the new bill.