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A new bipartisan budget-cutting plan that the House passed on Monday night and the Senate was expeced to vote on Tuesday would likely spare Pell Grants from major cuts.
Higher education advocates were concerned that congressional leaders crafting proposals to cut federal spending might target the Pell Grant program, which serves about 3 million community college students annually. Students use the grants to help pay for tuition, fees, books and other expenses.
The proposed legislation would use some of the savings from eliminating in-school interest subsidies on federal student loans for graduate and professional students to fund the Pell Grant program. It would provide $17 billion from the savings to Pell—$10 billion would go toward fiscal year (FY) 2012 spending and the balance would help fund the program in FY '13.
While it appears the $5,550 Pell Grant maximum will be spared this year, education advocates noted that discretionary spending programs are still on the table. The bill, which calls on a special committee to identify this fall at least an additional $1.2 trillion, would automatically cut defense and non-defense discretionary spending as well as some entitlement programs in FY '13 if an agreement is not reached. Under this scenario, education and job training programs would be cut by 6.7 percent, or $3 billion. Pell Grants would be exempt.
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