Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is hoping to help bring back year-round Pell grants to aid college students. On June 9, he voted for the Fiscal Year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill to do just that, along with providing additional support for advances in biomedical research.
Alexander is the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.
“If passed by the full senate, this will be the most important news for college students out of the Congress so far this year,” he said June 9. “I voted for this legislation today because it restores year-round Pell grants, helping an estimated one million students take the opportunity to graduate sooner and with less debt. I am now hopeful that when we get to the end of the year we will have also simplified the dreaded student aid form and reinstituted the year-round Pell grant —two of the major recommendations in the bipartisan FAST Act.”
Alexander continued, “I’d also like to congratulate Senators Blunt and Murray for doing a terrific job within the budget caps, of placing a priority for the second year in a row, support for breathtaking advances in biomedical research at the NIH [National Institutes of Health]. In the Senate health committee we’re continuing our parallel effort to secure a surge of funding for five specific projects that Dr. Collins has outlined at NIH, to take advantage of this exciting time in science.”
In the FAST Act introduced last year, Alexander and Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) proposed allowing students to use Pell grants year-round, to provide flexibility so students can study at their own pace. These provisions would enable students to complete college sooner.
At the subcommittee’s markup of the legislation before the vote, Alexander noted that the Education Department has also announced it will implement another provision of the bipartisan FAST Act, letting families use information from the tax return they filed last year when filling out the FAFSA student aid application.
The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations legislation includes funding for the following education priorities:
- The bill increases the maximum Pell award from $5,815 to $5,935 and restores the year-round Pell grant program.
- $1.8 million is included for the Presidential and Congressional History Teaching Academies.
- $343 million is included for charter schools, a $10 million increase over the FY16 enacted level.
The bill includes funding for the following health priorities:
- $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health
- $5 million increase for the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education program
- $250 million for the BRAIN Initiative at NIH, which is $100 million more than the FY16 enacted level.
- Funding for public health preparedness, including BARDA, Bioshield and the Strategic National Stockpile is included at FY16 enacted levels.
- $5.09 billion for Community Health Centers, which is equal to the FY16 enacted level.
- $2.8 billion for the Child Care and Development Block program, which is a $25 million increase over the FY 16 enacted level.
- $9.2 billion for Head Start, which is an increase of $35 million.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) may be reached via his website’s contact page at alexander.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email.