Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) helped include over $1.7 billion in the final spending bill to expand student loan and education programs for low-income students and Hispanic student populations, a $200 million increase from FY19. Congressman Cuellar also secured language that will improve the Temporary Expanded Public Services Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) program by directing the Department of Education to implement the Government Accountability Office’s recommendations, such as providing more information on how student borrows can submit a better application.
“Higher education is one of the best investments that you can make in your and your country’s future. However, higher education has never been more expensive” said Congressman Cuellar. “For this reason, I fought for additional funding for vital financial aid programs for low-income and disadvantaged students so everybody has a chance to go to college and pursue their dreams. In addition, I worked hard to secure language in the final spending bill that will help make the loan forgiveness program a more fair and reliable process for the millions of Americans who have chosen careers in public service. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to support initiatives that give students the resources to pay for college and help them land a good-paying job.”
“I would like to thank Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey and Ranking Member Kay Granger, as well as Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro and Ranking Member Tom Cole, for helping me secure these funds.”
Improving Temporary Expanded Public Services Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) program
In 2018, Congress included a measure in the final spending bill for a limited expansion of $350 million of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), a program that cancels federal student debt after tears for people who take jobs in in public service. However, from May 2018 to May 2019, ninety-nine percent of loan-forgiveness requests under the new Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) were rejected during the program's first year. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, the U.S. Department of Education processed roughly 54,000 requests and approved just 661.
To help student borrowers obtain the financial assistance they earned, Congressman Cuellar secured language directing the Department of Education to review the TEPSLF program. The newly added language will simplify the TEPSLF application process so borrowers can apply for TEPSLF at the same time they apply for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Most importantly, the language directs the Department to provide more information as to why applicants may be denied TEPSLF.
Pell Grants Congressman Cuellar helped increase the maximum award for Pell Grants to $6,345, a $150 increase from FY19. This funding will provide support to students with financial needs who have not earned their first bachelor's degree, or who are enrolled in certain post-baccalaureate programs, through participating institutions. He also ensured funding for year-round, or "Summer," Pell Grants, which will provide approximately one million students nationwide with an additional funds for higher education. Congressman Cuellar has worked to ensure that higher education is accessible for all regardless of socioeconomic status, throughout his time in public service. As a State Representative in Texas, Congressman Cuellar established the Towards Excellence, Access, and Success (TEXAS) Grant program that provides assistance to students with financial need who are seeking a first Bachelor's degree, a graduate degree or professional degree. It is now the largest grant program in Texas that has been able to assist over thousands of students in continuing to higher education. For more information on TEXAS Grant, click here. Federal TRIO Programs Congressman Cuellar also pushed for a $30 million increase for Federal TRIO Programs from FY19 funding; a FY20 total of $1.09 billion. TRIO programs are federal outreach and student services programs designed to help individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds progress through their academic careers from middle school to post baccalaureate programs. These programs primarily serve low-income, first-generation college students, as well as students with disabilities, veterans, homeless youth, foster youth, and individuals underrepresented in graduate education. At some Universities, the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Program helps increase college retention and graduation rates of its participants. TRIO SSS supports its students by offering academic tutoring, personal and academic counseling, and leadership conferences. Because of on-going support for program participants, TRIO SSS students continuously outperform non-program participants with increased retention, higher grades, and higher graduation rates. Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs Congressman Cuellar helped secure $395 million for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), a $35 million increase from FY19. GEAR UP Programs are designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP provides six-year grants that provide funding for services at high-poverty middle and high schools. They also provide college scholarships to low-income students and fund support services for students including tutoring, mentoring, offering dual enrollment classes and college tours. The objectives of these programs are to increase academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education, increase high school graduation and postsecondary participation rates, and increase families’ knowledge of postsecondary options, preparation, and finances. College Assistance Migrant Program and the Highschool Equivalency Program Congressman Cuellar helped secured $50,000,000 for the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and the High School Equivalency Program (HEP), a $5.4 million increase from FY19. CAMP assists migratory or seasonal workers enroll in their first year of undergraduate studies at institutions of higher education while HEP assists migratory or seasonal workers obtain high school equivalent education services. Both these programs ensure quality education for students who may not otherwise have means to access higher education. Securing Millions for Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) Congressman Cuellar’s additional wins include millions for HSIs. This includes $150 million for the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program, a $26 million increase from FY19. This program provides grants to HSIs to expand educational opportunities for, and improve the educational attainment of, Hispanic students. This bill also includes $30 million to help promote post baccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans, a $18.9 increase from FY19.