As the dust clears on the newly enacted economic stimulus package, it’s clear there are some big winners, some smaller winners and only a few left out in the cold under the compromise legislation totaling $789 billion.
The package has more than $100 billion for education, including $15 billion to bolster the Pell Grant program through a $500 increase in the maximum grant for needy students. Almost as significant for many students is a twoyear American Opportunity Tax Credit, which will provide many low- and middle-income families with a $2,500 annual credit to offset college costs. This credit will be more generous than the current $1,500 credit available through the HOPE Scholarship.
“Partial refundability is great. That’s new for higher education,” says Angela Peoples, legislative director of the United States Student Association, which has advocated the approach since the start of the debate.
Still, some members of the House of Representatives had wanted even more for K-12 and higher education, only to see those efforts beaten back by Senate moderates.
“A plan of this size was not easy to navigate, and it is not perfect,” says Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “But I believe it’s the best possible plan that could be reached swiftly, under challenging circumstances.” Following President Obama’s signature on the massive legislation, here is a look at some of the winners.
Pipeline programs: Core initiatives for lowincome children such as Title I and Head Start will get significant boosts, a move that may help millions of future college students. Title I will receive $13 billion in new funding with an eye toward reducing achievement gaps, and special education will get an additional $12 billion. Head Start will get $2 billion, half of which is going to its infant/toddler component, Early Head Start. President Barack Obama has identified early childhood education as a key priority to promote long-term achievement, and the new funds will support 124,000 youngsters.
States and school districts: The final package has $56 billion in “budget stabilization” funds that may help states and localities stave off some painful budget cuts. Given that many of these budgets fund school districts and public universities, the money may keep many programs alive and prevent cuts in others. Of the $56 billion, $5 billion is available only as bonuses for school districts that meet highperformance targets.
Job training programs: With unemployment rising, community colleges and others will see a spike in the number of individuals coming back for job-related training programs. The bill has $3.95 billion in additional funding for adult and youth programs, including $1.2 billion to create an estimated 1 million summer jobs for youth.
Science: The final package includes $8.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $3 billion for research activities at the National Science Foundation. “The bill restores science and innovation,” says Rep. James Clyburn, DS. C., who serves in the House leadership. Bundled with NSF funding, at least $200 million is earmarked for modernization of science and engineering facilities at colleges.
Education technology: Some college students may find it easier to buy computers, since the bill will allow owners of the popular 529 Education Plans to spend proceeds on the costs of computer technology. Students and parents already can put these funds toward tuition, fees, books as well as room and board. At the K-12 level, the stimulus bill includes $650 million for computer and science labs as well as related teacher training.
Among other things, the package earmarks $200 million to bolster funding for the college work-study program. And, states are eligible for $250 million in competitive grants to design data systems that improve the analysis of student achievement.
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