LeadMN Advocacy Fellow Meets with Vice President Harris

On May 24th, LeadMN’s National College Attainment Network (NCAN) Federal Advocacy Fellow, Amanda Schermerhorn, met with Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, in a roundtable discussion on the digital divide. President Biden has tapped Vice President Harris with lessening the digital divide. During the discussion, Schermerhorn stressed the importance of technology in the success of student of all ages and the need for investment in broadband nationwide. Watch the round table event with Vice President Harris: https://youtu.be/ODJBLpXc60U

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News story: https://www.publicnewsservice.org/2021-05-27/consumer/mn-voice-part-of-white-house-broadband-forum/a74440-1

LeadMN Fellow Meets with Secretary of Education and FCC Chairwoman

On May 12th, Amanda Schermerhorn joined Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, and Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, in a press call announcing the launch of the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program, which provides up to $50 a month towards broadband internet for eligible participants ($75 to those living on tribal land). In January LeadMN joined Higher Learning Advocates in providing comments to the FCC encouraging multiple options of verification for the EBB program to ensure Pell Grant students easy access. These recommendations were adopted by the FCC.

LeadMN Letter on EBB: https://www.leadmn.org/letter-fcc-emergency-broadband-connectivity-fund

President Biden’s Budget and Pell Grant Increase Proposal

President Biden recently released his full budget proposal for fiscal year 2022. Included in this FY22 budget request are increases to various programs that will make college more affordale and accessible to students across the country including:

  • A state-federal partnership to provide two years of free community college
  • A $1,875 increase in the Pell Grant for the 2022-23 award year
  • Expanding Pell Grant and campus aid programs to DACA recipients
  • $200 million increase for TRIO
  • $40 million increase for GEAR UP

President Biden’s budget proposal will now go to Congress to be written into appropriation bills. See the FY 2022 Department of Education Budget Key Highlights here: https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget22/budget-highlights.pdf

Emergency Aid Eligibility Expanded Under American Rescue Plan

On May 14th, the Department of Education released new guidance regarding eligibility for the emergency aid for students provided under the American Rescue Plan. Under these new guidelines, any individual who is, or was enrolled, at an eligible institution on or after March 13, 2020 can receive emergency aid. Students are now eligible for emergency aid, regardless of their Title IV eligibility or completion of FASFA, including those students enrolled in the DACA program. Institutions may still have left over funds from the first and second allocations of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, and this new guidance applies to all three rounds of COVID relief funding. LeadMN has been advocating with our Congressional delegation for this change since certain types of students were first excluded from receiving emergency aid under the CARES Act at the start of the pandemic. 

Making SNAP Changes Permanent

Legislation was recently introduced by House and Senate Democrats aimed at making the temporary changes in eligibility requirements for SNAP benefits permanent for students. If these changes were made permanent, any student with a zero Expected Family Contribution on their FAFSA or who is qualifies for work study, would be eligible to receive SNAP. This legislation would also require the U.S. Department of Education to notify students who may be eligible to receive SNAP benefits when they complete their FAFSA.

Read more here: https://www.npr.org/2021/05/11/995797110/warren-sanders-call-for-expanding-food-aid-to-college-students

Federal College Affordability Proposals

Congress and the Biden Administration have recently brought a renewed focus to addressing the crisis of college affordability with four proposals aimed at making a postsecondary education more accessible and affordable for students.  

  • The American Families Plan, proposed by President Biden, calls for a $1,400 increase in Pell Grant, provides eligibility to DREAMers for free community college and Pell Grants, and invests in diversifying to teaching profession to improve college readiness.
  • American’s College Promise guarantees universal, first-dollar tuition and fees at public community colleges in states that opt in, provides free tuition and fees for Pell Grant recipients at HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs at associate and bachelor’s level for 60 credits, and requires participating states to match federal funding at the rate of $1 for every $3 received.
  • The College for All Act focuses on doubling the Pell Grant amount to $12,999, while expanding eligibility to 15 semesters and significantly increasing TRIO and GEAR UP funding.
  • The Debt Free College Act provides debt free college-based on full cost of attendance- at all public institutions for Pell Grant recipients by meeting unmet financial needs. This means students would only be asked to pay their Expected Financial Contribution (EFC).

In 2019 LeadMN worked to introduce the College Promise Act at the Minnesota legislature to make the first two years of community and technical college free. These federal proposals would help make that goal a reality, and we look forward to continuing our work on this issue in the coming year.

See a comparison of the four proposals here: https://www.nasfaa.org/uploads/documents/Free_College_Matrix.pdf

Stay tuned for our next federal update on everything else that happened in June!