Thursday, September 17, 2009

Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility passes House

The U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, this afternoon by a vote of 253 to 171. The vote occurred largely on a party-line basis.

As you know, the bill contains the community college initiative in Title V, which is an historic federal investment in community colleges. The bill also includes guaranteed increases in the Pell Grant maximum, and changes in financial aid, such as simplifying the FAFSA form. Funding is available for these initiatives and others in the bill, by requiring that all institutions begin participating in the Direct Loan program by July 1, 2010. There has been an estimated $80 billion cost savings over 10 years from moving to the Direct Loan program.

On the floor, House Education and Labor Committee chairman George Miller, D-CA, offered an amendment that includes limiting the quantitative benchmarks that colleges that receive grants must set and meet. The amendment also includes language that says in order for States to receive funding under the community college initiative, they must establish and implement comprehensive articulation agreements.

Another amendment that passed on the floor ensures that colleges that received funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, are not denied facilities funding under the bill. The House did reject amendments that would have stripped the community college initiative and construction funds from the bill.

Now that the full House has passed the bill, the Senate will introduce their version of the bill, which could be as early as next week. Stay tuned.