December 7, 2020
Congressional education leaders are hopeful about reaching a deal in the coming days to simplify applying for student aid, a major priority for Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate education committee, who is retiring shortly after the new year.
Aides to the House and Senate education committees from both parties have been trying to reach a deal and appear to be close. Still unsettled is what Democratic priorities could be attached to a deal. One possibility, though far from certain on Friday afternoon, would be to allow more prisoners to use Pell Grants than are currently permitted to do so.
Terry Hartle, the American Council on Education’s senior vice president for government relations, said his impression is that key Senate and House education staff are “negotiating furiously.”
It’s also uncertain if any deal would be part of a massive budget deal being negotiated to keep the federal government operating past Dec. 11, which would also include additional COVID-19 relief funding.
Should the sides reach agreement, it would be a major win for Alexander as he retires on Jan. 3. The Republican from Tennessee, and former president of the University of Tennessee, has been pushing to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for years, oftentimes displaying the long, scroll-like form with 108 questions. He mentioned the issue in his farewell speech on the Senate floor last Wednesday as one of the things he “cared most about” and one of the “footprints” he wanted to leave behind.