The Senate appropriations committee will consider Thursday a spending package that boosts the maximum value of the Pell Grant by 1.7 percent, using funds from the program’s reserves.
The spending package -- part of a bill funding the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and related agencies -- also holds steady current funding for the Federal Work-Study program and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.
Lawmakers also used the spending package to ensure Education Secretary Betsy DeVos doesn’t reconsider a plan to award handling of federal student loans to a single servicer -- a proposal that the department abandoned after getting pushback from state-based servicers as well as Democratic and Republican elected officials.
The $68.3 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Education is $29 million above fiscal year 2017 levels.
Bumping up the Pell Grant increases its maximum value by $100, to $6,020. That would mean Congress and the administration would avoid letting the grant go without an annual increase for the first time since fiscal year 2007. That automatic increase was set to expire after the 2017-18 aid cycle.
The Institute for College Access and Success, which advocates for expanded access to student aid, praised lawmakers for the increasing the grant’s value while noting that the spending bill took about $2.6 billion from Pell Grant reserves.
"While we are very disappointed and concerned to see an additional $2.6 billion cut to Pell Grants in this bill, we praise both Senator [Roy] Blunt [of Missouri] and Senator [Patty] Murray [of Washington] for committing to work to reduce it through an ultimate congressional [fiscal year 2018] spending agreement that increases overall discretionary funding levels."