"Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at mountains and the stars up above. ... They will then begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education."
– David Polis
Volume 75 | Issue 2
March 2007

Public Policy Update

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, or HELP, Committee has indicated it may begin to focus on reauthorization of the Higher Education Act as soon as late March. The committee feels the bill that was written and vetoed last year was a strong bipartisan bill. The HELP Committee will begin working on the provisions where there were significant differences. The goal is to have workable legislation within the next couple of months. The HELP Committee will be working on No Child Left Behind on a parallel track. HELP staff expect No Child Left Behind to take much longer to have ready for introduction on the floor because of the new majority’s goal to completely refocus the bill.

President’s budget

The president’s budget, released in early February, includes a Pell Grant increase to $5,400 over five years. Several programs must be eliminated in his budget to pay for those increases. It also increases the academic competitiveness grants and includes $25 million for a pilot initiative for collecting and analyzing student data to measure outcomes such as graduation rates and academic performance. The pilot would assess the feasibility of implementing a system that would safeguard privacy of individual data. The student unit records program is not dead, but, as noted in past years, congressional support is doubtful.

The budget proposes eliminating 43 programs not seen as effective or impacting the Pell Grant to pay for the cuts. Two of the programs specifically eliminated are Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Perkins loans; others programs zeroed out are Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships (LEAP), Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarships, Tech-Prep education grants, Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants, and the Women’s Educational Equity Grants. Some of the programs commonly targeted for elimination, TRIO and GEAR UP, were actually funded at 2007 levels. The commentary from the Office of Management and Budget notes that a significant portion of the savings will be redirected to No Child Left Behind, which will be reauthorized this year.

House passes 2007 funding bill

A $463.5 billion spending bill (H J RES 20) was passed in the House on Jan. 31 by a vote of 286-140. The Pell Grant is one of the programs expected to receive a large portion of the funds—$615 million to be exact. It would be the first Pell Grant increase in five years, raising individual grants by $260 to $4,310. The Senate is expected to pass the bill and the legislation is expected to reach the president’s desk by mid-February and be signed into law.

Department regulations package on preferred lenders and inducements

The Department of Education has delivered drafts of proposed regulations for ongoing negotiated rulemaking sessions relating to preferred lender lists and inducements. Included in the package is a proposal to require colleges using preferred lender lists to give students the option of at least three lenders to choose from when applying for federal loans. Colleges also would be prevented from accepting certain payments from loan providers that were allowed in the past. Apart from preferred lenders and inducements, some in the higher education community were surprised by the department’s apparent decision not to include proposals from the Project on Student Debt to provide relief to highly indebted students.