In good news for higher education advocates, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on June 9 approved the Fiscal Year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services education appropriations bill — potentially paving the way for year-round Pell Grant funding.
Receiving bipartisan support, the education appropriations bill would expand Pell Grant eligibility to low-income students attending classes year-round — often called the Summer Pell program. The change would benefit approximately 1 million students nationwide, who could see a roughly $1,650 boost to their Pell awards. This would raise the max Pell Grant award from $5,815 to $5,935.
Funding for TRIO, GEAR Up, and Federal Work-Study would remain at Fiscal Year 2016 levels.
The appropriations bill also provides a $2 billion (6.2%) increase ($34.1 billion total) for the National Institutes of Health, which in turn will target areas such as Alzheimer’s disease research, the Precision Medicine Initiative, the BRAIN Initiative, and antibiotic resistant bacteria research.
“These investments reflect bipartisan commitment to college access and the nation’s investment in finding cures and extending lives through biomedical research,” the Association of American Universities said in a supportive statement.
The bill is good news for UCLA, which benefits heavily from Pell Grants (approximately one-third of students receive them) and NIH funding, and is a good sign that UCLA advocates’ voices were heard during their May UCLA Day In D.C. trip.
The bill still has many hurdles to go through, including House consensus and additional Congressional debate and action, but top education advocates hailed the initial passage as marked progress.