House and Senate negotiators have finalized a higher education investment package with a significant Pell grant increase along with an additional $500 million for minority-serving institutions such as Black colleges and Hispanic-serving universities.
The final agreement on the College Cost Reduction and Access Act would provide an additional $200 million for Hispanic-serving institutions and $170 million for HBCUs. Another $30 million would go to predominantly Black colleges, a new category of federal aid for non-HBCUs that are at least 40 percent African-American. Predominantly Black colleges also must have at least 1,000 students, of whom 50 percent are low-income, first-generation college students.
About 50 predominantly Black colleges would receive $600,000 each for science, technology, engineering, health education, teacher education or programs that improve the educational outcome of African-American males.
The financial aid provisions would increase the maximum Pell grant by $1,090 over the next five years, to $5,400. It also would cut the interest rate on need-based student loans in half, to 3.4 percent, and provide loan forgiveness for youth choosing public service careers in firefighting, nursing and law enforcement, among others.
About 5.5 million low- and middle-income students would gain more financial aid through this increase, said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chair of the House Education and Labor Committee.
In compiling this final bill, negotiators combined sections of separate House and Senate education bills approved in July. The House and Senate still must approve the measure, which also needs President Bush’s signature. Miller said the administration has notified him of the president’s intent to sign the bill, although Bush initially wanted to veto the House version.
The bill “is about guaranteeing access,” said Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Tex., a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and chair of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education. “This legislation increases student financial aid on an order of magnitude we have not seen in more than a generation.”
Congress would pay for the bill by cutting loan subsidies to banks and using most of the savings for new education investments. Lawmakers would set aside $750 million to reduce the federal deficit.
Elsewhere, the bill would provide an additional $60 million to tribal colleges for instructional support, laboratory equipment and other uses. Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian institutions would receive $30 million, and $10 million would go to Asian/Pacific Islander institutions.
In another first-time investment, the bill would provide $10 million to other institutions, outside tribal colleges, that enroll a moderate number of American Indian students. The bill would provide $10 million for these colleges, where American Indians must account for at least 10 percent of enrollment.
Also, the bill would create a new College Access Partnership Grant program targeting low-income students. The federal government would provide a 2-to-1 match for state or philanthropic funds to support this initiative.
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