The landmark legislation represents the largest increase in student aid since the GI bill. This legislation will help millions of students and their families pay for college, with no new cost to U.S. taxpayers.
The legislation would boost college financial aid by about $18 billion over the next five years. The bill reduces excessive federal subsidies paid to lenders in the college loan industry by $19 billion. It also includes $750 million in federal budget deficit reduction.
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, a member of the Education and Labor Committee, introduced two amendments, which were included in the final legislation. The first amendment would expand eligibility for part-time students and legal permanent residents to receive Academic Competitiveness Grants and National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (National SMART Grants), just as they are eligible to receive other forms of federal student aid.
Almost half a million Pell grant recipients are excluded based purely on their permanent resident status, a status which makes them eligible for all other forms of student aid except for ACG and SMART grants. Over seven million part-time students are currently ineligible for ACG and SMART grants.
Grijalva’s second amendment allows for certificate program students to be eligible to receive ACG and SMART grants. Currently, a quarter of a million students are ineligible for ACGs because they are in certificate programs; programs such as biotechnology, aerospace manufacturing technology, electronics engineering and renewable energies which are critical to our nation’s competitiveness.
“This legislation makes an historic investment in America’s college students and the future of our nation’s economic competitiveness, while doing so in a fiscally responsible manner,” said Grijalva. “At a time when our nation is trying to graduate more STEM majors than ever before, the grants’ narrow intent makes no sense. These amendments ensure expanded eligibility for all qualified students.”
Additionally, the base bill included several Grijalva amendments from previous Congresses, specifically, loan forgiveness for librarians, first responders, and bilingual educators in high need areas.
The College Cost Reduction Act also includes a number of other provisions that would ease the financial burden imposed on students and families by the cost of college, including:
- Up front tuition assistance for excellent undergraduate students who agree to teach in the nation’s public schools
- Loan forgiveness for college graduates that go into public service professions
- Increased federal loan limits so that students won’t have to rely as heavily on costlier private loans
- New tuition cost containment strategies
- $200 million in grants over the next five years to Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs)
- $228 million for Upward Bound, which will fund 188 additional programs to help prepare low-income, first generation students for college
In addition to increasing the maximum Pell Grant by $500, cutting student loan interest rates in half, and raising loan limits, the College Cost Reduction Act includes over $500 million for the Perkins Loan Program.