Congress, Clinton increase financial aid programs’ funds

Just before adjourning for the last time in mid-December, the U.S. Congress passed an education bill that raised the maximum Pell Grant by $450 and increased the budget of the National Institutes of Health by 14 percent.
Lawmakers, some of whom were voted out of office in the November election and still returned for several weeks of work, approved the bill Dec. 15. President Clinton, who had been a proponent of the bill, signed it into law soon after.
The increases to Pell Grants and other financial assistance programs and the NIH were products of months of often tense negotiations between party leaders and the White House. Several times during the process, seemingly secure deals were struck and then discarded.
According to the new law, the maximum Pell Grant will now be $3,750, up from $3,300. Funding for other programs to help needy students finance college was also increased. The TRIO program, which aids disadvantaged students, was given $730 million — $85 million more than last year, but still $30 million less than what some lawmakers were asking for.
The GEAR UP program also received an increase — from $200 million to $295 million, according to the budget. The program helps low-income middle school children prepare for college.
An increase of $77 million was given to the Federal Work-Study Program, the same amount President Clinton asked for. The work study program, which pays 75 percent of the cost to colleges of employing students in campus jobs, now has a budget of $1.01 billion.
The budget for the Perkins Loan Program was held at $100 million, the same as the previous year. But the law doubles, to $60 million, the amount of Perkins loans the federal government will forgive for those who teach in low-income communities or pursue careers in nursing or law enforcement.
The NIH budget, which affects academic health centers across the country, including the University’s, will be raised by $2.5 billion.
— The Chronicle of Higher Education contributed to this report.
— Erin Ghere