The highlight of the week was President Biden signing the federal appropriations bill, which included a $400 increase in the maximum Pell Grant, to $6,895 – the largest increase since 2009.
Of course, it isn’t a doubling of Pell as we’ve been campaigning for, but the fact that a Pell increase was included in the appropriations bill is the result of our efforts to keep the Pell Program “top of mind” with legislators.
Also important to note is the new maximum grant takes effect July 1 of this year, meaning it will help both prospective students and those currently enrolled.
Other student aid programs received increases:
- SEOG $15 million increase, to $895 million
- FWS $20 million increase, to $1.21 billion
- TRIO $40 million increase, to $1.13 billion
- GEAR UP $10 million increase, to $378 million
The U.S. Department of Education is in the process of revising federal regulations, known as “negotiated rulemaking.” We are very concerned about a proposal that could undermine efforts to facilitate online education.
The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) is a collaborative effort by state regulators and education leaders, accreditors, the U.S. Department of Education, and institutions to streamline regulations around distance education programs. NC-SARA makes it easier for students to access distance education programs across state lines and ensures the quality of that program while reducing administrative expenses.
Some of the Department’s proposed language could upend the SARA agreement by requiring all institutions to adhere to all consumer protection laws in all states where distance education is offered. In other words, each state would have to comply with the consumer protection laws in all the other states, which would be a bureaucratic nightmare. As NC-SARA put it, “We would all move backwards to the patchwork of state authorization distance education regulations that existed before SARA.”
Fortunately, thanks to strong advocacy the department did not secure unanimous agreement among the negotiators to make this proposed change final. That means it must go through a much lengthier process where the proposed language must be placed in the Federal Register and subject to public comment and further review.