Congress is now finalizing how they are going to move forward on the health care bill, having finally decided to use a process called budget reconciliation to pass the plan. The student loan bill, which passed the House last year as the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) will likely be part of this package. From the community college point of view, the two most important parts of SAFRA are the American Graduation Initiative and the money it would provide for Pell Grants.
Over the last few days, the landscape has changed dramatically. First, the estimated savings generated from ending the Federal Family Education Loan program in favor of direct lending by the Education Department fell by $20 billion over 10 years, to $67 billion rather than the $87 billion estimated last year. Since SAFRA would use these savings to pay for the AGI, the Pell Grant increases, and other programs, this created a problem for Congressional leaders. Furthermore, the cost of increasing the Pell Grants has risen dramatically. As a result, we are now hearing that the AGI and most other new programs have been stripped from the bill.
AACC has sent an alert to all of its members asking them to weigh in with Democratic Senators to reverse this outcome, and restore AGI to the student loan legislation. The Pell Grant funds are vitally important, but so, too, are the resources that would be provided to community colleges through the AGI. Final decisions on this matter will likely be made today - so time is of the essence for action.