Students footing more of bill for public higher education

A record 43 percent of educational revenue now comes from students.

The “public” component of public higher education is rapidly eroding, with public colleges now getting more than 43 percent of their revenues from student tuition as opposed to state and local taxpayers, compared to less than 30 percent as recently as a decade ago.

The figures come from a new report out March 16 offering the latest snapshot of who pays the bill for America’s public colleges and universities, which educate roughly 70 percent of students.

SHEEO, a group representing state higher education officials, finds that amid surging demand for college, per-student state and local funding for higher education has fallen 12.5 percent over the last five years and reached its lowest point in the 25 years of the study.…Read More

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.…Read More

Pell grants saved-kind of

With the maximum allocation for Pell Grants preserved in the latest round of the budget showdown–despite much political football and an earlier House appropriations bill that threatened to dramatically slash them–Democrats and education advocates are breathing a tempered sigh of relief, the Huffington Post reports.

“We had to make some very painful cuts in this bill to meet our allocation. So I am very pleased we could minimize the damage in education, maintain the maximum Pell Grant award and actually provide some increases for Head Start, Title I, special education and Promise Neighborhoods,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a member of the senate appropriations committee, said in an a statement to the Huffington Post…

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Debt-ceiling bill includes $17B increase in Pell Grants

Lawmakers gave Pell Grants for low-income college students a $17 billion boost at no additional cost to taxpayers by eliminating the in-school interest subsidy on subsidized loans for graduate students.

After weeks of political posturing, the agreement reached by lawmakers to raise the nation’s debt ceiling contains some good news for low-income undergraduate students—and bad news for other education stakeholders.

With just hours left before the national debt bumps against its cap, emergency bipartisan legislation to allow the government to borrow more money faces one final test in the Senate. Expected passage there sends the bill to President Barack Obama, averting a potentially disastrous, first-ever government default and making a down payment toward taming budget deficits.

The legislation, which easily passed the House on Aug. 1, is virtually assured to clear the Senate shortly after noon Aug. 2 by a bipartisan tally. The White House promises Obama will sign the measure into law.…Read More

Unease grows about future of financing for Pell grants

With the lame-duck Congress winding down and a $5.7 billion gap in financing looming for next year’s Pell grants–and a further $8 billion gap for the following year–there is growing uncertainty about the future of the grants, the nation’s most significant financial-aid program for college students, reports the New York Times. After months of wrangling, Congress grappled Friday with stopgap financing to keep the government in business after the budget expires this weekend. But the temporary measures, probably extending to mid-February, will most likely continue the current budget without providing extra Pell money. Earlier this year, Congress passed legislation that provided an extra $36 billion over 10 years to the Pell grant program and increased the maximum grant to $5,550, up from $4,050 five years ago. But with a new Congress arriving in January and determined to cut spending, it is unclear whether that expansion is sustainable. If Congress does not cover the gap in financing, millions of students could see their Pell grants reduced by more than 15 percent, with the maximum grant shrinking by about $845.

Financial aid officers are starting to worry about a program that is supposed to provide more than $30 billion next year to college students.

“Our students count on that money, and we don’t have the resources to try to make that up,” said Alice Murphey, director of financial-aid management at the City University of New York. “There’s always been a lot of support in Washington for Pell, and enough people on our side. This is the first time it’s ever looked like there wouldn’t eventually be a solution.”…Read More

House boosts college aid for students in need

Obama pushed for legislation that would fill a $19 billion Pell Grant shortfall.
Obama pushed for legislation that would fill a $19 billion Pell Grant shortfall.

Riding the coattails of a historic health care vote, the House on March 21 also passed a broad reorganization of college aid that affects millions of students and moves President Barack Obama closer to winning yet another of his top domestic policies.

The bill rewrites a four-decades-old student loan program, eliminating its reliance on private lenders and using the savings to direct $36 billion in new spending to Pell Grants for students in financial need.

In the biggest piece of education legislation since No Child Left Behind nine years ago, the bill also would provide more than $4 billion to historically black colleges and community colleges.…Read More

Student aid, linked to health care, gets a trim

An increase in Pell Grants was cut back in the revised student aid reform legislation.
An increase in Pell Grants was cut back in the revised student aid reform legislation.

Congressional Democrats on March 18 trimmed their original student loan plans, reduced spending for community colleges, and eliminated early childhood money from a broad rewrite of a college aid bill piggybacked on to fast-track health care legislation.

The student loan measure would be the biggest change in college assistance programs since Congress created them in the 1960s, ending a private-lender program by having the government originate all loans to needy students.

But facing savings smaller than anticipated from the switch and a shortfall in Pell Grant money for low-income students, Democrats are proposing no increases in Pell Grants over the next two years and a modest increase over the five years that follow.…Read More

Groups make renewed push for student loan reform

Some Senate Democrats haven't committed support for SAFRA.
Some Senate Democrats haven't committed support for SAFRA.

Higher education and K-12 activist groups have stepped up their support in recent days for President Obama’s student lending reform legislation, which has stalled in the U.S. Senate while high-ranking Democrats consider passing the reform package with a simple majority vote.

Days after one of Obama’s signature proposals was said to be in trouble on Capitol Hill, reform advocates were energized March 12 by news that Democrats could pass the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) alongside health care legislation through a process known as reconciliation, which doesn’t require 60 votes to avoid a filibuster in the Senate.

The student lending overhaul—pushed in recent weeks by Education Secretary Arne Duncan—would allow the federal government to lend money directly to students, instead of having students go through commercial lenders. Duncan said SAFRA would save taxpayers $87 billion over 10 years by doing away with subsidies to private lending companies, who then tack on interest to student loan payments.…Read More