Thursday, September 17, 2009

House Passes H.R. 3221!

This afternoon, by a vote of 253 to 171, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. The vote occurred largely on a party-line basis—just six Republicans and three Democrats abandoned their parties on the vote for final passage.

H.R. 3221 contains the American Graduation Initiative, an historic federal investment in community colleges, as well as guaranteed increases in the Pell Grant maximum, and funding for HBCUs and Hispanic-Serving Institutions. The legislation derives funds for these initiatives by requiring that all institutions begin participating in the Direct Loan program by July 1, 2010.

As part of the floor action, the House approved a manager's amendment, offered by House Education and Labor Committee chairman George Miller (D-CA), that includes a series of changes sought by AACC. It limits the quantitative benchmarks that colleges that receive AGI grants must set and meet. Under the original bill, the benchmarks could have been interpreted much more broadly and required unreasonable amounts of tracking and reporting. In addition, AACC secured language that requires that, in order for States to receive funding under the American Graduation Initiative, they must establish and implement comprehensive articulation agreements.

AACC also worked with Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Mike Ross (D-AR) on their amendment to ensure that colleges that received funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) were not denied facilities funding under the legislation. The House also approved amendments to bolster the bill's financial literacy provisions and strengthen services and priorities for veterans and dislocated workers. The House rejected amendments that would have stripped the American Graduation Initiative and construction funds from the bill. The amendment to eliminate the American Graduation Initiative was offered by Rep.Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and received 126 votes, all Republican.

A summary of the legislation can be found on AACC's Web site.

The action now moves to the Senate, where the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee must approve companion legislation by October 15. Senate legislation is expected to be introduced soon, as early as next week, with a committee markup shortly thereafter.