Education Leaders Celebrate Higher Education Agreement in FY21 Omnibus

Deal Includes Major Expansion of Pell Grants, Simplification of FAFSA, Debt Relief for HBCUs, and Eligibility for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

WASHINGTON – Today, following the release of the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) Omnibus bill text, Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment Chair Susan Davis (CA-53), and Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Chair Alma Adams (NC-12) celebrated the major Democratic priorities for higher education included in the spending bill.  

The bill expands the Pell Grant program, which will result in hundreds of thousands of students becoming newly eligible for Pell and millions of current recipients receiving larger awards. The bill also repeals the ban on Pell eligibility among incarcerated students and restores Pell Grant eligibility for students defrauded by their institutions.  

To ensure students get the financial support they need, the bill streamlines the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and eliminates a confusing and punitive restriction that limits eligibility for subsidized federal loans among low-income students. Finally, the legislation discharges loans made to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) under the HBCU Capital Financing Loan program, providing $1.34 billion in relief to these institutions.

“This bipartisan agreement is a significant step toward making higher education more affordable for millions of Americans. The package released today includes a wide range of provisions – secured by House Democrats – that will make federal grants and loans more accessible and more generous, particularly for our most vulnerable students,” said Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott“Congress has a responsibility to expand access to quality higher education, which remains the surest path to the middle class. While this is not the comprehensive overhaul of the Higher Education Act and there is still work to be done, this proposal will help millions of students. I’m pleased House Democrats secured these sweeping reforms on behalf of students across the country.” 

"The omnibus agreement provides increased opportunities in higher education and a path to the middle class,"said Rep. Davis, Chairwoman of the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee"This will mean a brighter future for millions of young people as our communities will also benefit from their knowledge, skills, and expertise for years to come.”

“This year’s omnibus empowers students by expanding and simplifying the federal student aid programs, and by removing barriers for low-income and justice-involved individuals,” said Rep. Adams, Chairwoman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee. “Additionally, I’m proud to announce the inclusion of my legislation, H.R. 7380, the HBCU Capital Finance Debt Relief Act, which relieves over $1.3 billion in debt for our HBCUs, allowing these institutions to continue their mission of empowering communities of color. Combined, these measures will help ensure that higher education continues to be an accessible bridge to the middle class.”

The bill achieves longstanding Democratic priorities, including: 

  • Expanding the Pell Grant program and making it easier for students to predict their eligibility, which will make hundreds of thousands of students newly eligible for Pell and increase award amounts for millions of current Pell recipients.
  • Making it easier for students to apply – and qualify – for federal student aid by streamlining the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and expanding outreach and awareness activities to encourage FAFSA completion, with a focus on low-income students and families.
  • Expanding opportunities for justice-involved individuals to get an education and successfully reenter their communities by providing incarcerated students access to Pell Grants.
  • Discharging loans made to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) under the HBCU Capital Financing Loan program, providing $1.34 billion in relief. 
  • Eliminating a confusing and punitive restriction that limits eligibility for subsidized federal loans among low-income students. 
  • Restoring Pell Grant eligibility for defrauded students, including those who attended shuttered for-profit colleges like ITT Technical Institutes and Corinthian Colleges.


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