dotEDU Brief: Congress Returns to Full Agenda, Groups Launch National Campaign to Double Pell Grants


Aired ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​July 15, 2021

The hosts preview the rest of the summer session in Congress and their hopes for a smooth August break, and listeners will learn more about how they can take action through the #DoublePell campaign website. 


 Read this episode's transcript

Jon Fansmith: Hello, and welcome to dotEDU, the higher education policy podcast from the American Council on Education. And today we are doing a very brief episode as we begin the run down to August recess. And for that purpose, I am joined by my...I'm going to be honest since Mushtaq is not favorite colleague, Sarah Spreitzer.

Sarah Spreitzer: Thank you, thank you. And obviously I came so prepared for this that I forgot my podcast microphone. So hopefully you can hear me.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah, one of our producers was mentioning before, it's like senior-itis I think we are looking forward to the August break maybe with, with desperation we don't usually have, the pandemic [has] been rough.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah. Yeah. And I don't know about you, but I already have some things lined up for August, which are, which are not good. It's confusing how Congress thinks they're going to get through everything they need to get through in July, right, without...

Jon Fansmith: Oh, yeah...

Sarah Spreitzer: August. So, I'm watching the National Defense Authorization act, which they're marking up the week before August and then August discussing the staff will be working on, and then I still have, well, we're waiting to see what's going to happen with the Senate, China bill, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act and what the House is going to do with that. So I, unfortunately, I think my August is going to be slightly busy.

Jon Fansmith: I'm having the same. I opened the news each day with a certain sense of existential dread because I am very involved in the infrastructure discussions, which the discussion this week is that there's no way they're going to be able to get it done in time for the recess. So they'll just push back into August in the Senate. And since the House doesn't have any votes scheduled, they may decide to return early from their August recess and do that, which I think for most of the people listening, you're probably happy that your federal government has decided not to take five weeks of vacation and do the people's business, but for Sarah, and I think that's like we have vacation plans. We'd really love to get to and infrastructure bills, China bills, national defense, all very important, obviously seem to be impinging on our own personal goals.

Sarah Spreitzer: And don't get me wrong, I love the fact that they're like actually working and they're getting things passed. I mean, that's much different I think last year when we were looking at August, but I saw last night, there was like a late night White House meeting, right? With some of the leaders said that they're still trying to decide on the total number for the infrastructure package. Right?

Jon Fansmith: Yeah. There, I mean, this is one of the things that actually, I talked about this pushing back, the reason they're talking about pushing back as I think people think they're really close, there is broad agreement on the outline, but they're now talking about details. And, and generally when you talk about details and details to the level of what will we draft the legislation to say, that's a pretty good sign that's going forward. You don't generally ever get to that until there's clear consensus that you have enough momentum to put a bill forward. So it really looks like we will get what think people are thinking of as a traditional infrastructure bill, the roads, bridges, broadband in this case, which we're really interested in to. The bigger question is what goes along with it. And a lot of the congressional Dems have said, we're not going to do this traditional infrastructure bill.

If we don't also get a reconciliation package, that includes a lot of the things by an administration put forward. And that they wanted, which is education funding, lots of education funding, free community college support, for HBCU's, TCU's and MSIs. You know, a lot of things that were proposed by the administration we've been talking about, I think, a lot on this podcast and so of course that complicates the discussions a little bit because Republicans proposal those things, some of the ways they pay for it would be tax increases, which are always a difficult slog to get through. So a lot of things up in the air, but there's clearly momentum moving forward on the first part of that. And we just have to wait and see what happens.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah. The, the other thing I'm going to be watching in August is, and I'm sure you will be too, as our campuses kind of reopened for the fall semester and what that looks like. I've been watching closely for our international students, whether or not their visas are getting processed in consulates and embassies around the world. And so we're hoping that many of our international students can get here by the time that their programs start. But I'm guessing there's going to be, it's going to be a bumpy, bumpy ride in August because of that.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah it is.

Sarah Spreitzer: Hopefully...

Jon Fansmith: Yeah, it does seem like there's a, you know, and I guess everything's relative concerning the last year and a half, but a great degree of uncertainty about what fall may look like at a lot of campuses. And as we talk about reopening, as we talk about what Congress is doing and the fall, the other thing I've been spending a lot of time with that, a lot of my colleagues at ACE and, and other organizations have been spending a lot of time with is as we record this today, we and our partners have launched the website, which is an advocacy tool that we have put together based on feedback from our member institutions and working, like I said, in collaboration with a large number of other organizations, really to try and compel Congress to double the Pell grant to $13,000 maximum grant by the 50th anniversary of Pell, which is June of the next year.

So there are opportunities I talked about that reconciliation bill would be the ideal kind of vehicle to do something like doubling Pell on it and so we created this tool. We are sharing it all ACE members should have gotten an email about it by the time this podcast is live. We certainly encourage you to check it out and see the ways you, your campus, your students, your local communities can engage with it. It's really designed to help people outside of DC engage on the issue. You can submit stories, student stories to explain how Pell has impacted them and the importance of Pell to pursuing their education. There's a very helpful sort of easy tool that allows you to draft your own message, to contact Congress, your members of Congress. And again, that's this website that we just launched, they were very excited about. It's also very pretty, I'm not involved with the design stuff.

Sarah Spreitzer: It is it looks really nice.

Jon Fansmith: It's very cool. Yeah. So...

Sarah Spreitzer: And whats the address Jon, what's the address for the website?

Jon Fansmith: It is and that's D-O-U-B-L-E P-E-L-L dot O-R-G.

Sarah Spreitzer: You know, I heard from a colleague this morning that they'd actually participated. They've gone to the contact Congress page and they'd submitted a note, their member of Congress.

Jon Fansmith: Yay!

Sarah Spreitzer: And that's such a great thing to do in August. Cause you know, August is usually the time when members are returned home. They're at state and county fairs and they're meeting with constituents. So now's a great time to kind of check out that website so that if you do run into your Senator in your whole grocery store on your campus, you'll have your talking points ready to talk about doubling Pell.

Jon Fansmith: That's exactly right. And, and we're not necessarily encouraging you to linger around grocery stores with talking points, but if that happens to be what you find fun, like there's worse ways to spend your time, right?

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah.

Jon Fansmith: Well, and then the final thing I think, as we talk about approaching the end of the summer in the fall, we're going to have one last episode of dotEDU before we go on our summer break. I think it's actually a really interesting and timely one. I don't know. Sarah, did you want to talk about it a little bit?

Sarah Spreitzer: Well, since I'm the expert on college sports, that makes that I think this is going to be around name, image and likeness, which has had a lot of interests following the Supreme Court decision recently. And we're going to hear from our own general counsel, Pete McDonough. And so that, that'd be a great, a great discussion. Pete can tell us all about what we need to be watching again in the lead up to the fall semester as these new name, image, likeness rules take place.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah. And I think people are familiar with the Supreme Court rule that talked a bit about the ability of athletes to get other educational benefits that was sort of separate from the name, image, and likeness, but we are expecting those new rules, and just from having conversations with Pete about this, there's so many more dimensions to this issue than I think you've tended to see covered in the press, which has really focused on sort of the high profile sports at the highest athletic programs at institutions, the power five groups, but across higher ed, there's going to be important ramifications to this. So, I think that'll be a great discussion again, very timely.

And that will be our last one of the season before we go on a break. So before we go, we just want to thank all of you for listening and for your feedback, your support in particular, we want to thank Catherine Ahmad and Anthony Trueheart who have been our producers, both technical and otherwise who have not gotten as much love in the credits as they should have. And I think Sarah and I can easily agree to the extent that this sounds good at all. It's because there are people who are propping us up with a great amount of skill at work. So we are incredibly grateful to them for that.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yes, thank you to all our producers. They're the best.

Jon Fansmith: So look out for the last episode of the season and then look for us in the fall. And I hope you enjoy the rest of your summers. Take care.

About the Podcast

​Each episode of dotEDU presents a deep dive into a major public policy issue impacting college campuses and students across the country. Hosts from ACE are joined by guest experts to lead you through thought-provoking conversations on topics such as campus free speech, diversity in admissions, college costs and affordability, and more. Find all episodes of the podcast at the dotEDU page.

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