By: Brenda Hicks, Government Relations Committee Chair
The Pell Grant – It’s A Changin’ (Again)
I’ve often heard it said that the most important skill a financial aid administrator can acquire is remembering what to forget. Indeed, it is the changing nature of this business that keeps me engaged and interested. There is always some new challenge around the corner.
And this past few weeks, that new thing has been the Pell Grant! Just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock – here is a brief update: As reported in Today’s News on Friday, May 5, 2017 President Trump signed into law a spending package passed by Congress earlier in the week that included the restoration of the year-round Pell grant. The bill also directed the Department of Education (ED) to issue guidance on year-round Pell not later than July 1, 2017.
The news spread like wildfire in the financial aid community sparking a letter to ED from NASFAA designed to ensure the community continues to have a voice in the implementation process in order to avoid the problems with the first stab at this beneficial provision just a few years ago.
The good news in all of this is that Congress, in this iteration of the fund tweak, has purposefully excluded any acceleration requirement and has emphasized the importance of allowing schools the flexibility of school choice concerning the assignment of the cross-over period. Yay!
The biggest thing on people’s minds right now is – WHEN? As written, the provision is effective starting in the 17-18 award year. At least two institutions in Kansas have summer header programs, so for those two institutions, the 17-18 award year is NOW. However, before you choke on your coffee remember that this is the national government. In the world of moving vehicles, the government most closely resembles the large, 18-wheel semi-truck/trailer variety with a very large turning radius. It’s not going to be speedy.
Most likely, and this opinion is seconded in last week’s NASFAA Off the Cuff released May 19, 2017, the earliest this provision will be enacted will be Summer 2018. For now – we are waiting for the initial guidance from ED and keeping our eye open for opportunities to weigh in.
BILL WATCH: Last week’s Today’s News also mentioned two other bills of note. One, the Perkins Loan Extension Act of 2017 was introduced by a bi-partisan group of legislators. The bill would once again extend the Perkins Loan program for another two years in the hopes of keeping it alive through Reauthorization. Another interesting development is the College Transparency Act of 2017 which would eliminate the federal ban on collecting student unit record data while protecting the privacy of individual students.