Before adjourning last month, Congress approved a "continuing resolution" that funded the federal government through March 4, 2011 and protected the Pell Grant program from cuts. However, this week the House passed a resolution to cut non-security discretionary spending to 2008 levels or lower this year. Reducing Pell funding to the 2008 level would mean more than a $1,500 cut in the maximum Pell Grant next fall from the current level of $5,550, and would eliminate grants entirely for hundreds of thousands of students. We'll keep you informed about new developments and how you can help ensure access to this crucial source of need-based grant aid in the 2011-12 school year.
The U.S. Department of Education is expected to issue a final "gainful employment" regulation sometime in the next few weeks. TICAS is part of a broad coalition of student, consumer, civil rights, veterans and college access groups calling for a strong and effective rule, which would prevent career education programs — for-profit, nonprofit, and public — from routinely saddling students with debt they can't repay and credentials they can't use. See the coalition's letter sent to President Obama today and signed by 38 organizations. Meanwhile, the for-profit college industry is suing to block the implementation of several other common-sense regulations that have already been finalized, including one that bars all types of colleges from misrepresenting their programs and results. To stay up-to-date on the gainful employment debate and learn more about what's at stake, see http://protectstudentsandtaxpayers.org.
We are very pleased to announce that Libby Masiuk has joined the TICAS staff as a policy associate focused on federal policy issues. Libby comes to us from the office of former-U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy, where she was an advisor on education and national service issues. Libby is based in our new Washington, DC office at 1111 16th Street, NW. Once we have a phone number for that office we will share it with you. Our home base remains Oakland, CA, and you can reach Libby and all TICAS staff through our main number at 510-318-7900.
As one door opens, another closes. Our communications director, Edie Irons, will be leaving TICAS in mid-February after contributing to nearly everything we've done for nearly six years. We'll miss her!
Please see the job postings for this and two other open positions and help us spread the word.
At the end of this month, many federal student aid applicants will be able to electronically transfer their own IRS data right into their 2011-12 FAFSA, an approach based on our 2007 report, Going to the Source. Piloted by the Department of Education last year, this important simplification tool will now be available for nearly the entire aid application cycle. However, it will only work for aid applicants who have already filed their 2010 federal income taxes.For more about our recommendations for improving and simplifying the aid application process, see our official comments on the draft 2011-12 FAFSA form and After the FAFSA, our recent report on the red tape that can prevent eligible students from receiving aid.