Senate passes higher ed bill to increase Pell grants

Kiera Manion-Fischer

Higher education is now, more than ever, a priority in Washington.

The U.S. Senate renewed the Higher Education Act on July 24, which will, among other things, increase Pell grant funding, create transparency for tuition increases and attack student lender conflicts of interest.

Comparable legislation still must be passed in the House.

David Creamer, senior vice president for administration, said higher education has become more of a concern for the federal government in terms of global competitiveness.

“Are we falling behind?” he asked, referring to U.S. higher education policies compared to the rest of the world.

One of the bill’s provisions is an increase in the maximum federal Pell grant from $4,310 to $6,300.

“Federal financial aid is extremely important to most of the students that attend here,” said Connie Hawke, director of federal relations and associate university counsel. “If there’s more financial aid available, they’re more likely to be able to continue to go to school here.”

She said retention is a top university priority.

The bill will also create a price-index for college tuition, which will show how it changes and compare prices of institutions.

“They’re going to shine a spotlight on colleges that raise their tuition too much,” Hawke said.

She said state subsidies for public institutions had been declining, but the cost of education keeps going up. This cost had to be made up in tuition increases.

Creamer, however, said the price index was more a concern for private, for-profit institutions.

The bill will also place restrictions on student lenders’ gifts to university employees.

Hawke said the bill won’t be funded until an appropriations bill is passed as well, so it will be a long time before students see these changes.

“It’s going to be a while before we see the final bill that goes to be signed by the president,” Creamer said.

Contact principal reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at [email protected].