An omnibus appropriations bill for the current fiscal year passed the House yesterday and is on its way to the Senate. This piece of legislation will raise the maximum award for Federal Pell Grants to $5350 for 2009-2010. The bill was put on hold last year due to threats of a veto from President Bush.
While Pell Grants received a funding boost, SEOG grants will remain at 2008 funding levels, as will work-study. Perkins Loan cancellation programs will receive a boost in funding to cover shortfalls. Additionally, TRIO and Gear Up programs, aimed at helping low-income students get into college, also received more funding.
The first draft of the budget for the 2010 fiscal year is also heading to Congress soon after being unveiled by President Obama this morning. While details are still emerging, based on an address the president delivered Tuesday, it's likely that further funding for financial aid programs and higher education in general will be included.
While budgets are being hashed out and college aid is generally on its way up, more trouble may be brewing for student loans. A PLUS loan auction program slated to go into effect this summer could reduce the availability of these loans that parents take out on behalf of their students, at least at schools participating in the FFEL program. Financial aid officers have petitioned Congress to delay the scheduled cut in PLUS loan subsidies so as not to jeopardize students' ability to pay for school in the midst of a recession that has already driven dozens of banks away from one form of student lending or another.