- The maximum Pell Grant for fiscal year 2024 would increase by $250 — to $7,645 — under a bipartisan spending proposal passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.
- The committee voted 26-2 to recommend $79.6 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education, which would provide the agency with flat funding in line with current spending levels.
- Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee two weeks earlier proposed just $67.4 billion for the Education Department, representing a roughly $12 billion reduction from current spending levels. The cuts would include keeping funding for the Pell Grant program flat and eliminating certain student aid programs.
Although the House and Senate proposals for Education Department funding differ widely, they both fall well short of President Joe Biden’s proposed budget. In March, he had pitched $90 billion for the agency, including boosting the maximum Pell Grant award to $8,215.
That plan didn’t have much chance of getting through a deeply divided Congress, where Republicans dominate the House, and Democrats hold only a narrow majority in the Senate.
But hopes for elements of Biden’s blueprint to pass were further dashed when congressional lawmakers cut a deal in June to raise the debt ceiling limit, averting a potential economic disaster. Under that agreement, lawmakers flat-funded federal education spending for fiscal 2024 and limited increases to 1% for fiscal 2025.
Although the Senate’s plan includes a Pell Grant increase, the proposed hike would be smaller than recent expansions. The maximum award grew by $400 in fiscal 2022 and $500 in fiscal 2023.
Even with those increases, the Pell Grant — designed to help low- and moderate-income students afford college — has much less purchasing power than it once did.
In the 2023-24 academic year, the Pell Grant is expected to cover around 32% of average tuition, fees, and room and board at public four-year colleges, a huge drop from the 79% covered in the 1975-76 academic year, according to one recent analysis.
For student aid administration, the Senate plan would set aside $150 million in part to help the Education Department support borrowers who are reentering repayment. A roughly three-year freeze on federal student loan payments lifts in October.
Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled House is hoping for deep cuts to the Education Department.
That chamber's plan includes a proposal to eliminate Federal Work-Study, which funds part-time employment for students, and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, which provides up to $4,000 to the lowest-income students.