The U.S. House Education and Labor Committee approved, along party lines, Democrats' coronavirus relief package, which would provide an additional $40 billion in aid to institutions and students, Inside Higher Ed reported. The marathon markup session lasted over 13 hours with lawmakers considering more than 30 amendments.
The measure is part of the broader $1.9 trillion aid package that Democrats are advancing through Congress using the budget reconciliation process, which creates a filibuster-proof path for the legislation in the Senate without the need for Republican votes. The education plan now heads to the House Budget Committee, which will package proposals from various committees into a single piece of legislation that heads to the House floor, Politico reported.
Under the committee-approved bill, colleges and universities would receive a share of the money based on a formula weighted toward their share of Pell Grant recipients and students who were in-person before the pandemic, reported Politico. Private nonprofit colleges would be fully eligible for the funds, though an earlier proposal appeared to exempt many of them. Additionally, it appears that the measure would make undocumented student eligible to receive emergency grants.
The legislation would require most institutions to spend at least 50 percent of their funding on direct financial aid grants to students. However, it would require for-profit colleges to spend their entire allocation on direct assistance to students.
The measure largely mirrors President Biden's proposal, but House Democrats omitted a $5 billion education fund for governors and instead directs that money into higher education, according to Politico. House Democrats also included a provision that would expand restrictions on how for-profit colleges access federal funding by closing a loophole in the 90/10 rule.
The federal rule prohibits for-profit colleges from receiving more than 90 percent of their revenue from Education Department loans and grants. Currently, military and veterans' education benefits do not count toward that threshold despite being federal aid. The approved measure would expand the 90 percent cap on for-profit colleges' funding to include all types of federal funding, including veterans' benefits.
Ahead of the markup, AACRAO and other higher education associations sent a letter to House education committee leaders in support of the FY21 budget resolution's reconciliation instructions.
"The pandemic has disproportionately affected low-income students and communities of color. Substantial federal support is critical to limiting the losses experienced and to restoring opportunity to those who most need it," the groups state.
Inside Higher Ed
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Letter in Support of Higher Education Emergency Relief in FY21 Budget Resolution