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Bipartisan Proposal to Reinstate Year-Round Pell

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June 19, 2014

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Bipartisan Proposal to Reinstate Year-Round Pell

With higher education affordability and student loan burdens hot topics on Capitol Hill in recent months, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) have introduced a bipartisan bill aimed to make higher education more attainable through reforms to federal student aid.

The main priority of the bipartisan bill is to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form by reducing the number of questions from 108 to two. Students must fill out a FAFSA in order to determine aid eligibility for student loans and grants, but the daunting nature of the current form often deters students, especially low-income individuals, who could benefit from Pell grants and other aid.

In an effort to help students speed up their time to completion of a postsecondary credential, the bill would also reinstate year-round Pell grant eligibility to allow students to utilize their aid for summer coursework. Year-round Pell was eliminated in 2012 only three years after its implementation and before institutions and students were able to take full advantage of the benefits.

Additionally, the bill seeks several other reforms to the student aid program. In filling out the FAFSA, students would be allowed to use their parents’ pre-tax income levels from two years earlier to determine household income levels. This shift would allow students to determine their loan eligibility amounts starting in their junior year of high school versus in their second semester of their senior year under the current form requirements. The bill would also simplify loan offerings and repayment options, and would limit student borrowing levels per semester to their enrollment status as full-time or part-time to prevent over-borrowing.

The introduction of this bill is likely to set off a more robust effort to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) in the coming months. While it’s unlikely that we will see a final bill in this Congress, we could see many recommendations from policymakers on how to reform postsecondary education.

ACTE is currently working with Members of Congress to move forward priorities that would make HEA more inclusive of CTE programs and students and would provide opportunities for preparation of future CTE educators.

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