Vincennes U Offers Reduced Tuition for Middle-Income Students

Vincennes University (IN) has introduced a new scholarship that will offer a 15 percent reduction in tuition fees for students from middle-income families who do not traditionally qualify for financial aid. The introduction of the Middle-Income Hoosier Scholarship is part of a larger university strategy to help Indiana increase the number of college graduates. To qualify, students cannot be eligible for any state or federal funds, must have an adjusted gross income of less than $75,000, be a full-time student and maintain a grade point average of 2.5.

Ball State U Announces Cost-saving Tuition Incentives

Ball State University (IN) has announced four new cost-saving options designed to encourage students to earn a diploma in four years. New incentives include a $500 "completion scholarship" for in-state seniors on track to graduate within four years; the reduction of summer tuition by an average of 18 percent; the reduction of minimum credit hours to 120 from 126; and new "hybrid schedules" that allow students enrolled in 12 credit hours per semester to take up to six more credit hours, on campus or online, at no cost. The university's president says that the package of incentives will save a typical student $6,000 over four years.

California Students Launch the 'Bucks Start Here' Campaign

In an effort to convince state lawmakers to reinvest in higher education, the California State Student Association (CSSA) has launched the "Bucks Start Here" campaign. Students at all 23 California State University campuses are sending their "bucks" to California Governor Jerry Brown in time for CSSA's advocacy day in March 2012. The mock $650 million bills, which represent this year's cuts to the state university system, each include a student's personal story about how the cuts have impacted their life.

Obama Administration Issues Guidance on Higher Ed Diversity

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice have jointly issued guidance stating that diversity is an important educational goal and that colleges should be able to use a variety of methods, including the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions, to achieve diversity. As reported in a recent Inside Higher Ed article, the guidance represents a reversal from 2008 guidance issued by the Bush administration that stressed the limits on the rights of colleges to consider race in admissions. The guidance outlines the way the Obama administration would consider complaints it receives about admissions policies and addresses various ways that colleges can promote diversity.

Obama Leads Effort to Improve American Indian, Tribal Education

President Obama has issued an executive order establishing an effort to improve educational opportunities for American Indians and Alaska Natives, as well as to enhance tribal colleges, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. The U.S. Departments of Education and Interior will collaborate on delivering grants to higher education institutions, as well as tribal elementary and secondary schools. The initiative will also develop a national network of organizations to promote ideal education methods for American Indian and Alaska Native education.

Update: Obama Meets with College Leaders to Address Affordability

Reports from the private meeting with President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last week with college and university leaders say that there was "good discussion" about driving down tuition and what the role of the federal government should be, reports The New York Times. As additional financing for education will be scarce in the coming years, higher education leaders were challenged to help improve affordability and graduation rates by questioning strongly held assumptions and encouraging faculty to think differently about teaching. The meeting also included a discussion about what the federal government can do to support innovation with incentive money and increase accountability in student aid.

William Peace U Lowers Tuition

William Peace University (NC) trustees have voted to decrease tuition by 7.73 percent for the 2012-13 academic year. The university's president said that colleges have to become more cost-effective to continue to keep the doors open to families hurt by the economy. The lowered tuition is part of an overall strategy to increase enrollment.

Education Secretary Urges Action to Contain College Costs

“As Occupy movement protests helped push spiraling college costs into the national spotlight,” reports a recent New York Times article, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called for urgent action to contain costs and reduce student debt. Duncan outlined three department initiatives including plans to replace the expiring Perkins loan program with campus-based, low-cost student loans; incentive grants rewarding changes that increase completion rates and close achievement gaps; and a fund to support programs that use innovation to accelerate learning and hold down tuition. The article references the Occupy Student Debt Campaign, which spawned recently from Occupy Wall Street and asks for zero interest on student debt, federally financed public higher education, and the forgiveness of all existing debt.

Protesters Rally Against CUNY Tuition Increase

About a thousand students, faculty members and sympathetic supporters recently marched in opposition to a tuition increase that the City University of New York's Board of Trustees has approved. A Chronicle of Higher Education article reports that some protestors came in order to address the university's response to confrontation between campus security officers and protesters, which ended in 15 arrests. Other protestors said they understood the financial complexities behind the increase, but believed the student movement deserved their support. The long-term tuition plan will increase costs by $300 annually for five years, with the first year's increase already in effect.

U California Board of Regents Urged to Lower Tuition

Students and faculty members recently addressed the University of California's Board of Regents to discuss the state's budget problems and gradual retreat from supporting higher education, reports a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article. Held by teleconference to hear public comment, people urged board members and administrators to support the "ReFund California Pledge," which calls for raising taxes on the wealthiest Californians, closing tax loopholes and lowering tuition.

White House Gathers College Leaders to Address Affordability

Inside Higher Ed reports that President Obama has called the leaders of 10 colleges and state university systems to a "highly unusual" meeting at the White House to discuss affordability and productivity in higher education. "Amid an increasing focus on student debt and college prices, the event seems to signal that the Obama administration will make those issues a focus going into the 2012 campaign," says the article. The guest list is drawn largely from public institutions and includes leaders of large state systems, public universities, a statewide community college system and two private institutions.

Cornell U Students Call for Transgender Friendly Bathrooms

In support of the transgender community on campus, Cornell University's (NY) Student Assembly has passed a resolution that calls for the conversion of every single-stall bathroom on campus to a gender-neutral facility. The resolution, which will now go before administrative bodies on campus, also prescribes the inclusion of gender-neutral bathrooms in all future university buildings.

Student Debt, Rising Tuition Protests Heat Up in U.S. and Canada

A recent story in The Christian Science Monitor profiles the wave of protests on U.S. college and university campuses that are being held in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. With rallies and walk-outs from classes, students are protesting rising costs of tuition, student debt and weak job prospects. Stating that students at more than 120 institutions have participated in protests so far, the article compares the galvanizing issue to the civil rights and Vietnam War student protests of the 1960s. On the West coast, the University of California, Davis was home to one of the most controversial incidents as students staging a peaceful sit-in were pepper-sprayed by police officers. Students at the University of California, Berkeley who were setting up an Occupy tent city on campus were beaten and arrested by police in riot gear who broke up the encampment. On the East coast, protesters from the Occupy Boston movement, local unions and area colleges marched with the message that higher education is becoming too costly for all but the privileged. Roughly 50 New Jersey City University faculty, staff and students also rallied in protest of state cuts to higher education and the high cost of student loans. In Canada, tens of thousands of university students in Quebec recently demonstrated against a proposed tuition increase of $325 a year over a five-year period. Tuition fees have been frozen for 33 of the past 43 years in Quebec. The planned hike would provide the province with $850 million more in operating revenues. Students boycotted classes during the largely peaceful protest.

Yale Medical School Actively Recruiting Gay Applicants

In an effort to increase an underrepresented demographic group as physicians, Yale University's (CT) School of Medicine is actively recruiting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender applicants for the first time. The university has created a brochure aimed at those applicants and is considering adding a section to the application where students can identify their sexual orientation.

Average Student Loan Debt Grew 5% in 2010

A recent report by the Project on Student Debt has revealed that students who graduated from college in 2010 with student loans owed an average of $25,250, up 5 percent from the previous year, reports The New York Times. The report is based on data from more than 1,000 colleges, representing half of all public and private nonprofit four-year schools. The article points out that the average amount of debt would be even higher if the report included profit-making schools, where almost all students take out loans and, according to federal data, borrow about 45 percent more than students at nonprofits. The average debt - once again the highest on record - came as the class of 2010 faced an unemployment rate for new college graduates of 9.1 percent, the highest in recent years. The burden of student loans and the rising default rate has become a central concern of the nationwide Occupy protests.

Occupy Movement Comes to California Campuses

Arguing that banks created the country's economic collapse that decimated state budgets and led to massive tuition hikes in recent years, a union-backed group recently organized protests at more than a dozen college campuses in California. The protests are calling on leaders of California's public universities to pledge support for higher taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals as a way to restore funding for jobs and education.

Student Aid Petition Gathers Thousands of Signatures

A "Statement of Support" from the Student Aid Alliance that calls on Congress to protect Pell Grants, student loans and other financial aid programs from budget cuts has gathered more than 37,000 signatures. The petition will soon be delivered to members of the Super Committee, a bipartisan panel charged with cutting $1 trillion from the nation's budget by the end of November. Signers include students, faculty and administrators from all sectors.

U Charleston Announces 22% Tuition Cut

In a deliberate move to attract students who might otherwise be unable to afford college, the University of Charleston (WV) has announced a tuition cut of 22 percent for next year's incoming first-year and transfer students. The university is also guaranteeing at least $5,500 in aid for all returning students.

Yale School of Management Forms Diversity Advisory Group

Yale University's (CT) School of Management has launched a Diversity Advisory Group with the goal of boosting diversity in the student body. Composed of 21 students, three faculty advisers and the associate director of admissions, the new committee will be driven by students from multiple areas of the school who will work with administrators to create and implement policy.

U Winnipeg Earns National Recognition for Indigenous Scholarship

A 2011 ranking of institutions by Maclean's magazine has recognized the University of Winnipeg (MB) as one of Canada's most innovative and successful campuses in fostering indigenous scholarship. The university, which saw a 24 percent leap in indigenous student applications from the last academic year, offers a graduate degree in development practice with a focus on indigenous development, and an urban studies program with courses that examine the urban indigenous, immigrant and refugee experience.

New York State Announces $2.5 M in College Access Grants

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced $2.5 million in College Access Challenge Grants to programs that will help thousands of low-income students obtain a college degree. The grants were awarded by the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation to 15 community-based organizations statewide that provide academic support for students at risk of dropping out; training for high school guidance counselors serving low-income students; and college financing workshops.

Obama Announces Programs to Ease Student Loan Burden

President Obama announced two new programs last week to lower monthly student loan payments and consolidate at a lower interest rate. The president is using his executive authority to expand the existing income-based repayment program with a "Pay as You Earn" option that would allow graduates to pay 10 percent of their discretionary income after 20 years and have the rest of their federal student loan debt forgiven, says a New York Times article. The announcement follows a petition with more than 30,000 signatures that asked for student debt relief and a Trends in College Pricing Report 2011 that reveals the current severity of the higher education affordability problem.

Hispanic CC Completion Rates Increase 440% in 20 Years

Minorities have shown triple-digit jumps in enrollments and credentials awarded at community colleges in the past 20 years, according to a new policy brief from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Hispanics saw the highest jump in earned credentials with a 440 percent increase. Enrollments according to race and ethnicity increased 17 percent for whites, 137 percent for African Americans and 226 percent for Hispanics.

Vancouver Island U Adds Gathering Place for Aboriginal Students

Vancouver Island University has opened a new meeting place for aboriginal students on campus. Designed to resemble a traditional Coast Salish longhouse with sustainable features including a green roof, the 3,900-square-foot Shq'apthut building is one of 27 being created at public postsecondary institutions across British Columbia through a $13.6 million investment by the province.

California's 'Dream Act' Becomes Law

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that will allow illegal immigrants who graduated from high school in-state to receive state financial aid for college, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. Known as the California Dream Act, the law will allow undocumented students to apply for state grants, fee waivers at community colleges and institutional financial aid at public universities, starting in 2013. In related news, the governor vetoed another bill that would have allowed public colleges to consider race in admissions.

Rhode Island Approves In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students

The Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education has approved a measure that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at the state's public institutions. Under the new policy change, in-state rates will be available to undocumented immigrants' children who have attended a high school in the state for at least three years and graduated or received an equivalent degree.

Rising Tuitions Incite National Student Protests

Students on nearly 100 campuses participated in walkouts and rallies to protest rising tuition and shrinking academic programs, reports a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article. While many of the largest student walkouts and rallies were in the Northeast, a small group of students at the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrated against proposals to increase tuition by as much as 81 percent over the next four years. Students are worried, said a student organizer at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne: "I have amassed $20,000 so far in debt...many students are not certain that they're going to get jobs, and that's why we're here."

Chronicle of Higher Ed: U.S. Seeking Foreign Student Diversity

There is a growing effort by higher education institutions in the U.S. to attract a more geographically diverse group of foreign students, according to a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article. By recruiting more students from underrepresented countries including South Asia and Latin America, admissions officers hope to enrich campus culture, help undergraduates prepare for globalized workplaces and hedge against the risk of a sudden drop-off in foreign enrollment.

NY Times: Higher Ed Seeking Out Students Who Can Pay Full Price

More than half of the admissions officers at public research universities said in a recent Inside Higher Ed survey that they have been working harder in the past year to recruit students who need no financial aid and can pay full price, reports the New York Times. According to the survey of 462 admissions directors and enrollment managers, 22 percent of admissions officials at four-year institutions said the financial downturn has led them to pay more attention in their decision to applicants’ ability to pay. Admissions directors at many public universities said in the survey that recruiting more out-of-state and international students, who pay higher tuition, was their top strategy. At community colleges and private institutions, admissions officers were more likely to say that providing aid for low- and middle- income students was their focus.

Kentucky CTCS Earns National Accolades for Diversity Efforts

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) has announced that it will receive the Central Regional Award for Equity from the Association of Community College Trustees. KCTCS has earned the recognition with several new diversity initiatives designed to create an inclusive community of learners and increase the college-going rate of underrepresented populations.

U Colorado Boulder Sees 9% Increase in Students of Color

The University of Colorado at Boulder's current student body is the most diverse ever, according to results from a campus census that show the number of students of color increased by 9 percent this fall over last year. The university credits campus recruiting and retention programs for the gain as minorities now make up 17 percent of the school's student body.

Humboldt State U Creates Bias Response Team

Humboldt State University (CA) has announced the formation of a campus-wide Bias Response Team. Headquartered in the university's Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the initiative is an institutionalized process designed to address bias and hate incidents in a coordinated and comprehensive manner. The unit will respond to and document incidents, educate the campus community on a systematic basis about hate and bias incidents and offer educational programming and public forums to address specific topics and incidents.

California Community Colleges Create Scholarship Fund

In the face of state funding cuts that have forced course reductions and prevented thousands of students from obtaining classes, reports a recent Los Angeles Times article, California's community colleges have created a $67.7 million scholarship fund to provide financial support for thousands of students annually. As fees for California community college students increase from $26 to $36 per unit this fall, the scholarship fund will provide $1,000 to qualified students for textbooks, lab fees and other expenses. An estimated 4,000 students annually will receive scholarships from the endowment, which is a culmination of a three-year fundraising campaign that began with a lead gift of $25 million from a foundation that promised to match a portion of the donations raised by the colleges. Since 2008, the state's 112 community colleges have raised $28.5 million, generating $14.2 million in matching dollars.

Hispanics Become Largest Campus Minority

With a 24 percent spike in college enrollment, Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds have become the largest minority group attending college in the U.S., reports a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. A report recently released by the Pew Hispanic Center says the number of young Hispanics enrolling in college grew by 349,000 from 2009 to 2010. The increase is attributed to data that revealed that more Hispanic young adults were eligible to attend college than ever before as nearly 73 percent had finished high school, and more college-eligible Hispanic youths enrolled in college than ever before. Much of the growth stems from Hispanic enrollment at community colleges. Young Hispanics are enrolling in community colleges at a much greater rate than are their peers, while young black students remain the largest minority group at the country's four-year colleges.

Liberal Arts Diversity Group Works to Diversify Faculty

A group known as the Liberal Arts Diversity Officers, which includes administrators from 24 liberal arts institutions, is planning a forum to share resources and discuss the continuing challenge of diversifying their faculties, reports a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Leaders of the group want the forum, to be held at Columbia University (NY), to encourage an exchange of strategies for attracting underrepresented students and staff members as well as faculty members. Presidents, chief academic officers and chief diversity officers from 16 colleges are expected to attend. Since its creation, the group has put in place a number of member ideas including the creation of a pipeline of diverse candidates for liberal arts faculty positions.

New Report Reveals Continued Gender Gap in STEM Fields

A new report from the U.S. Department of Commerce highlights the gender gap in science and technology fields. Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they represent less than 25 percent of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs. The report also notes that women with a STEM degree are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation.

CC Students Receiving Pell Grants Increases 92% in 5 Years

The number of community college students receiving Pell Grants has increased by 92 percent in the last five years according to a new policy brief from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). In the past academic year alone, the number of recipients increased 21 percent. The cost of the federal program in helping students in part pay for a higher education has also increased; over the same five-year period, expenditures for Pell Grants have swelled 182 percent, including 19 percent in the last year. In related news, Pell Grants were spared in the debt bill at the maximum of $5,500 for all students, reports Inside Higher Ed. While it provides stability to the program for a couple of years, all programs will face a difficult Congressional environment with spending cuts going forward.

Pell Grant Paycheck Pilot Program Shows Early Success

A pilot program that uses surplus Pell Grant money after tuition costs as a biweekly paycheck for students has earned positive results in its first year at Mt. San Antonio College (CA), reports Inside Higher Ed. Believing that students who are receiving a paycheck may be more likely to give their studies more focus, "Aid Like a Paycheck" - a joint project from the Institute for College Access and Success and policy research organization MDRC - aims to improve completion rates. Students in the pilot phase have reported that being paid to stay in college makes them take their studies more seriously, and that they have pared back hours on outside jobs, giving them more time to focus on school.

Robert Morris U Fosters Diversity through Student Service

With nearly 50 students from Saudi Arabia's cultural-exchange program scheduled to arrive in the fall, Robert Morris University (PA) has announced a new service project designed to expose the incoming students to as diverse a set of classmates as possible, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. The students from Saudi Arabia will join members of the university's Black Male Excellence Network, Hillel chapter, Coalition for Christian Outreach and Hispanic Student Association for a service project in Coraopolis, a distressed Pittsburgh community near the university. The students will work on activities like outfitting a building to operate as a food pantry and clothing bank, setting up a community garden, and serving a Thanksgiving dinner. The program was initiated in response to President Barack Obama's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which invites higher education institutions to commit to a year of interfaith and community service programming on campus.

Venezuelan Indigenous U Preserves Tribal Customs Amid Modernity

Venezuelan Indigenous University, founded seven years ago, is set to be incorporated into the national higher education system this year, according to a recent story by Reuters. With 100 students drawn from many of the Venezuela's 44 recognized tribes, the university teaches ancient customs alongside modern law and technology. The goal of the university is to create leaders who can defend tribal land rights and prevent modernity from destroying thousands of years of knowledge about forest and river life. Students and teachers are also creating oral histories from elders that may otherwise vanish. The article highlights one recent graduate who, after graduation, helped pipe clean water from a mountain spring into village homes.

College Leaders, Students, Senators Rally to Save Pell Grants

Inside Higher Ed has reported that eight college presidents joined student activists and two U.S. senators at a rally on Capitol Hill recently to protest Congressional Republicans' proposals to cut Pell Grants in deficit reduction talks. Public research institutions have a lot to lose if Pell is cut next year, says the article, because large percentages of their students rely on grants. A proposal for the upcoming fiscal year would reduce the maximum award by $845 and render 1.7 million current students ineligible to receive the grants.

Students Urge Senate to Pass DREAM Act

Hundreds of students came from around the country to show their support for the DREAM Act at a Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security hearing in June. The act would create a path toward citizenship for undocumented immigrants who complete an associate degree, two years toward a bachelor’s degree or two years of military service. A key provision of the bill gives states the option to make in-state tuition for higher education available to undocumented youths.

University Leaders Meet to Discuss Access, Equity

Strategies for increasing enrollments of students of low socioeconomic status were discussed at the recent International Association of University Presidents conference. University leaders from approximately 80 countries gathered to discuss access, trends in learning technology, quality and quality assurance, and the role of higher education in conflict resolution. Leaders also discussed the importance of working toward equity in their own ranks. A panel looked at the continuing gender imbalances in university leadership, stressing that the underrepresentation of women is not just a "women's issue" but a problem that should concern everyone involved in higher education.

5 Institutions Lauded for Affordability, Access

Five institutions were recently recognized as the most affordable and accessible institutions with high graduation rates. A report by the Education Trust, "Priced Out: How the Wrong Financial Aid Policies Hurt Low-Income Students," examined nearly 1,200 four-year colleges and universities nationwide with comparable data on what low-income students pay for college. Of these, the University of North Carolina Greensboro, California State University campuses Fullerton and Long Beach, and City University of New York campuses Bernard M. Baruch and Queens demonstrate success. Success was measured in three areas including asking students to pay a portion of the family income no greater than what the average middle-income student pays for a bachelor's degree; offering students at least a 50 percent chance at graduation; and enrolling a proportion of low-income students at least as high as the national average. The report urges federal, state and institutional leaders to rethink policies that widen the opportunity gap in America's colleges and universities.

Yale U Announces Return of ROTC

Yale University (CT) has announced the reinstatement of its Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program with a Naval unit. The institution joins Stanford University (CA), Columbia University (NY) and Harvard University (MA) as the latest institutions to reinstate the ROTC program following Congress' repeal of a ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

Chronicle of Higher Ed: Rethinking Access to Higher Education

Public anxiety over college costs is at an all-time high and low-income college graduates or those burdened by student-loan debt are questioning the value of their degrees, The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported in an article that examines the findings of two surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center. One survey collected responses from 1,055 college leaders from mid-March to mid-April in association with The Chronicle, and the other surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,142 adults age 18 and older by telephone. Three-quarters of the public said college was out of reach for most people. Twenty-five years ago, six in 10 Americans felt that way, according to a survey by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. The responses of presidents at public two-year, for-profit and less-selective four-year colleges show a struggle with declining state support, while tuition-driven private colleges confront a student market that has said "enough" to paying more. To meet financial challenges and President Obama's goal of having the world's highest proportion of college graduates by 2020, says "Harnessing America's Wasted Talent" author Peter M. Smith in the article, colleges will have to rethink how they do business and expand access to students who are less prepared, who are the first in their families to attend college and who are juggling classes with work and family. Ideas addressed in the article include three-year degrees, year-round classes, online courses, adopting learning outcomes tied to real-world standards and changing federal financial-aid policy to meet nontraditional students' needs.

Faculty Organizations Kick-Off College Access Campaign

Representatives of faculty organizations and groups devoted to promoting college access officially kicked off their "Campaign for the Future of Higher Education" in May, it was recently reported The Chronicle of Higher Education. The initiative seeks to have higher education organizations work together to promote the idea that the nation's future depends on making an affordable college education available to all segments of American society. A think tank that will emerge from the campaign will initiate research leading to new legislation and new state or campus policies, bringing together researchers who already do work related to college access but have had little interaction with each other.

Stanford U, Columbia U Reinstate ROTC Program on Campus

Stanford University (CA) and Columbia University (NY) are the latest institutions to announce the reinstatement of their Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) programs following Congress' repeal of a ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. The institutions join Harvard University (MA), which reinstated its ROTC program in March.

Likely End to Year-Round Pell Grants Leaves Students in Limbo

The likely elimination of the year-round Pell Grant program has left thousands of students who had hoped to receive a second grant this year in limbo, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. Under the federal budget deal, students would no longer be able to take out a second Pell Grant to pay for classes starting July 1, saving the federal government $8 billion through the remainder of the current fiscal year and in 2012, and about $49 billion over the next decade. Advocates worry that many low-income, nontraditional students will make slower progress toward their degrees without the additional aid or be forced to drop out of college.

Federal Budget Deal Largely Spares Education, Pell Grant

President Barack Obama said in a speech Friday that the plan to finance the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year largely spares his top priorities including education, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. With only an hour to spare before a government shutdown, lawmakers reached an agreement late Friday. Details of the spending bill, which would cut $38.5 billion from the previous year's budget, are still being negotiated but according to the White House blog, the bill would maintain the Pell Grant maximum at $5,550, the same level as this year, and make "strong investments" in the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation and the Energy Department's Office of Science.