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House Passes Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009

September 23, 2009

On September 17, by a 253-171 margin, the House passed its version of a bill (HR 3221) to move all institutions to the Federal Direct Loan program, increase spending on the Pell Grant program, and revamp the Perkins Loan program. The debate now turns to the Senate, where a draft bill is expected to be introduced for consideration by the Health, Education, and Labor Committee in the next few days.

While there were no significant changes in the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 from the version approved in committee before the August recess, several amendments were approved on the House floor. One, introduced by Education and Labor Committee Chair George Miller (D-CA), would amend the provision included in the Higher Education Opportunity Act 0f 2008 that allows students to receive two Pell grants in one year. The changes attempt to resolve disagreements between the Department of Education and representatives of colleges and universities during the negotiated rulemaking process.

Other changes from the committee bill would:

  • Appropriate $50 million for the Department of Education to provide technical assistance to help institutions switch from the Federal Family Education Loan program to the Federal Direct Loan program.
  • Require ED to conduct outreach to students and families about the switch to Direct Loans.
  • Prohibit earmarks for any of the funds appropriated under the act.
  • Express various priorities or provide benefits for service members, veterans, dislocated workers, and those preparing to work in energy-related fields.
  • Allow nonprofit institutions to elect to participate in state programs under the College Access and Completion Innovation Fund but would not allow states to require such institutions to participate.

Once the Senate has completed its work on a companion bill, the final version of this legislation will be resolved in a conference committee and then included in a larger budget reconciliation act. Timing on final passage is up in the air and may be tied to progress on health care reform.

 

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