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Senate Wants to Boost Pell Funding by 10 Percent for 2006

Senate Wants to Boost Pell Funding by 10 Percent for 2006
By Charles Pekow

The prospects for increased Pell Grant funding for 2006 got a boost when the Senate Budget Committee recently approved a 10.1 percent increase from the 2005 fiscal budget for the program. The increase is $417 million above the Bush administration’s request.

The resolution would increase the maximum grant by $100, to $4,150, as the president requested. But the number of recipients would increase by 138,000, or 2.6 percent, next year.

The committee also approved loan forgiveness for up to $4,000 for Pell Grant recipients who finish their degrees within four years but carry student loan debt. The proposal would convert the loans into grants, up to an equivalent of $5,150 per year of school once borrowers complete their degrees.

Additionally, the committee approved a one-time $4.3 billion pool as a reserve fund to eliminate the current Pell Grant shortfall.

The resolution also includes a $4.5 billion reserve account to cover increases over five years for Higher Education Act programs if Congress renews the legislation.

While budget resolutions set guidelines, they don’t require appropriations bills to follow their advice.

The House Budget Committee, meanwhile, passed a resolution that remains silent on these issues. “We set the numbers,” explains a House committee spokeswoman. “The (appropriations) committees decide what to do with them. The budget doesn’t set policy.”

Historically, the Senate has recommended more specific figures than the House has, she added.

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