U.S. Sen. Al Franken’s amendment to the Senate budget to restore the Republican budget’s proposed cuts of almost $90 billion to student Pell Grants failed in the marathon Thursday-into-early-Friday budget resolution session.
Pell Grants, which give money to students with financial need — and, unlike student loans, these don’t need to be paid back — helped 160,000 students in Minnesota pay for college last year, Franken said on the Senate floor. His office said in a release that Pell Grants help more than 8.2 million students go to college.
The Republican budget would make cuts to this program and freeze the maximum Pell Grant award while tuition at many universities continues to increase. The House and Senate Budget Committees are planning to cut more than $3 trillion in 2016 through 2025 from programs that serve people with lower incomes, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported earlier this week.
Franken’s plan failed by eight votes on Thursday afternoon.
“When my wife Franni and I were in college, a full Pell Grant paid for about 80 percent of a public college education,” Franken said on the Senate floor. “Today, it pays for less than 35 percent. And yet, this budget would cut this program.”
The House Budget Committee, which said in its plan that it would cut $90 billion between 2016 and 2025, says that the Pell Grant Program will see a shortfall starting in fiscal year 2017. To compensate for that, the budget will be “targeting Federal financial aid to those most in need” and making programs more efficient.
Amendments introduced by U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) passed in the Senate Thursday to make more than one Pell Grant available to students in a single year.