Legislature to Look at Education Budget Bill
A major education-funding bill and plans to tinker with the Higher Education Act were awaiting Congress when it returned to work this month.
An education budget bill was the top item on the agenda for most lawmakers and advocates. The House and Senate both approved an education-spending bill with a $400 Pell grant increase and funding gains for minority-serving colleges and universities, and the bill is in conference. That conference report has been signed but not filed, thereby leaving it open to changes when the leadership learns what President Clinton wants included in the bill. Clinton has threatened to veto the plan because it fails to provide comprehensive funding for several of his new K-12 initiatives.
Most analysts expect some hard negotiating before the government’s new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Some educators also are hoping that Congress will finish work on a technical-amendments bill making small changes in the 1998 HEA law. One major provision on this bill would soften language from the 1998 bill that requires Pell grant recipients to repay portions of their grants if they drop out of school. The new bill would narrow the scope of the repayment policy. For example, it would no longer apply to most small Pell grants if the new bill takes effect.
The House has passed the bill, but it faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Education groups also are not united on the package of technical amendments. Provisions to increase campus crime reporting are among several of the bill’s thornier issues that have spurred some debate among higher education associations.
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