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Senate appropriators on Thursday approved along a party-line vote a fiscal year 2013 funding bill that would increase the Pell Grant maximum to $5,635 and maintain current funding for most other student aid and workforce training programs. The legislation would also restore Pell Grant eligibility for "ability-to-benefit" (ATB) students in specific career path programs.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced the amendment to restore ATB, which has been a priority for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) since it was nixed in last year’s funding legislation. As a cost-saving measure, Congress changed federal student aid eligibility rules, eliminating the ATB test that showed whether a student without a high school diploma or GED could do college-level work. About 1 percent of community college students—roughly 100,000 total—are ATB students, according to AACC.
“Without access to Pell Grants and other funds, many of these students would be unable to attend college,” said AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus. “Restoring their aid eligibility for key career programs will enable them to get the postsecondary skills they need to succeed in today’s workforce, which helps to improve the economy for all.”
The Senate funding bill also would:
Under the proposal, funding for Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Federal Work-Study would remain at $735 million and $977 million, respectively. Funding for TRIO and GEAR UP would also stay at current levels—$840 million and $302 million, respectively.
The Senate bill would fund Carl D. Perkins Basic State Grants at $1.12 billion, and Adult Basic and Literacy Education State Grants would receive $595 million. Current funding levels would also remain for the Higher Education Act (HEA) Titles III and V programs.
The bill would provide a small increase for international education and foreign language programs under Title VI and Fulbright-Hays, from $74 million to $75.7 million.
Most of the U.S. Department of Labor’s workforce training programs would also remain level-funded, including $2.6 billion for training and employment services grants to states and $50 million for the Workforce Innovation Fund.
It is not clear when, or even if, this legislation will be considered by the full Senate. The House appropriators are expected to release their FY 2013 bill next week. Education advocates note that the House subcommittee overseeing appropriations for education and job training programs has capped its budget $7 billion below the Senate’s budget.
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