Despite Secretary DeVos' proposal to cut the Dept. of Education's funding, the recent spending bill actually did the opposite. 

In March, Congress approved a $1.3 trillion federal spending bill, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown. And this new spending package increases funding to the Department of Education, countering many of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ higher education proposals, the Associated Press reported.

DeVos originally proposed cutting spending to the Department of Education by $9 billion, according to The Washington Post. She proposed getting rid of a program that would help low-income students go to college as well as after-school youth programs.

DeVos’ budget proposal also would have eliminated the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and cut out the subsidized loan program. She did propose spending over $1 billion to promote private school vouchers and charter schools.

In the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, the House of Representatives actually increased funding to the Department of Education by $4 billion. While DeVos’ budget proposal would have limited the Pell Grant funds to $5,036, the updated bill increased this amount to $6,095.The bill also reauthorized many programs already running.

The annual spending bill decides how the government will fund all federal programs for the upcoming year. If the spending bill hadn’t passed before the March 23 deadline, it would have marked the second government shutdown of 2018.

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Although loan forgiveness and subsidized loans made their way into this federal spending bill, they may face new challenges when the House of Representatives reviews the PROSPER Act, a bill that aims to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Funding Your Education

In the meantime, for many students looking for ways to pay their education, Pell Grants can be a great option. They are need-based grants awarded by the federal government and, unlike loans, they don’t have to be repaid. However, it takes a little bit of work to qualify for a Pell Grant.

The first step is simply to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) so the government can determine what type of aid borrowers will qualify for. There is also a “special circumstances” form a borrower can fill out if the previous year’s tax returns don’t accurately represent their family’s current financial situation.

Although the maximum Pell Grant amount is $6,095, not all borrowers will qualify for the full amount. However, during the 2016-2017 school year, over 7 million students did receive an average Pell Grant of about $3,700, according to College Board.

For students who qualify, the money will be applied directly to their college account to pay for their tuition just like any other type of financial aid.

Image Copyright © Gage Skidmore