Press Release

Rep. Cuellar Announces over $24 Billion for Education through ‘Minibus’ Appropriations Bill

Pell Grant recipients to receive up to $6,195 per year to attend college

Washington, November 9, 2018
Tags: Education

WASHINGTON – Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) helped secure over $22.5 billion for Pell Grants and a $100 increase in the maximum annual award per student in a “minibus” appropriations package containing the Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bills.


He also included $1.5 billion to expand education programs for low-income students in the 28th District of Texas, such as the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) and Federal TRiO programs.  Furthermore, he secured language that helps establish partnerships with higher education institutions, including Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and other minority serving institutions.


This bill passed both chambers and was signed into law by the President in late September. 


Pell Grants

Congressman Cuellar helped increase the maximum award for Pell Grants to $6,195, a $100 increase per student from FY18. 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. This continues funding for year-round, or "Summer," Pell Grants, which will provide approximately one million students nationwide with an additional grant averaging $1,650.

More than 29,000 students in Texas’ 28th Congressional district received Pell Grants for the 2016-2017 school year, adding up to more than $122 million distributed to students in Congressman Cuellar’s district. In this area, there are more than a dozen HSIs, including Laredo Community College, South Texas College, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, University of the Incarnate Word, and Texas A&M International University.


Universities in the South Texas region and their percentage of Pell Grant recipients (for which the latest National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data is available) who are first time, full-time degree seekers:


·         Baptist University of the Americas (San Antonio) 42%

·         Hallmark University (San Antonio) 58%

·         Laredo College 74%

·         Northwest Vista College (San Antonio) 66%

·         Our Lady of the Lake University (San Antonio) 64%

·         Palo Alto College (San Antonio) 66%

·         South Texas College (McAllen) 79%

·         St. Mary’s University (San Antonio) 48%

·         St. Philip’s College (San Antonio) 63%

·         Texas A&M International University (Laredo) 67%

·         The University of Texas at San Antonio 45%

·         The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio 28%

·         The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 69%

·         University of the Incarnate Word (San Antonio) 46%

·         Wayland Baptist University (San Antonio) 56%

·         Texas A&M San Antonio 64%


Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs

Congressman Cuellar helped secure $360 million for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), a $10 million increase from FY18. 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.


Universities throughout the 28th District of Texas have greatly benefited from this funding. In 2017, Congressman Cuellar announced that the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was awarded $21.2 million to operate GEAR UP Programs. As part of the grant, UTRGV, Valley school districts, and community partners matched the U.S. Department of Education’s funding, providing more than $42 million to benefit students in the Rio Grande Valley. Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) in Laredo has also used GEAR UP funds to prepare over 8,000 students, in 20 school districts throughout South Texas.


Dr. Minita Ramirez, Vice President for Student Success for Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) said, “Thanks to Congressman Henry Cuellar and the Department of Education. Through the GEAR UP Grant, Texas A&M International University has been able to help thousands of South Texas' most promising students realize their potential and the opportunities formal higher education makes real. These GEAR UP students realize the long-term impact good education has for themselves and their families. This program and others like it open doors, create dreams, and fuel hopes for brighter futures.”


“These funds allow UTRGV to expose more students to higher education and careers related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM),” UTRGV President Guy Bailey said. “This grant would not have been possible without the support of the Valley’s congressional leaders, U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) and Filemón Vela (TX-34).”


Federal TRiO Programs

This bill also includes $1.06 billion for Federal TRiO Programs, a $50 million increase from FY18. 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 TAMIU, 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. In the 2016-17 school year, TRiO’s retention rate was 93%, good academic standing was 94%, and the graduation rate was 61%, showing just how valuable the program is to TAMIU students and the community.


Securing Millions for Hispanic Serving Institutions

Congressman Cuellar’s additional wins include millions for HSIs. This includes $124 million for the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program, which provides grants to HSIs to expand educational opportunities for, and improve the educational attainment of, Hispanic students.


This bill also includes $44.6 million to help promote post baccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans Programs, including the High School Equivalency Program (HEP) and the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP). Both of these programs provide grants to expand post baccalaureate educational opportunities for Hispanic students.


Additional education and HSI wins:

  • Language encouraging the DOD to work collaboratively in the health research field with HSIs;
  • Language directing the Secretary of Defense to work with HSIs to develop programs that will prepare more students to meet the eligibility requirements for pilot training in the Air Force; and
  • Language encouraging the Director of the National Security Education Program (DOD) to find ways to work with HSIs to ensure a diversity of analysis with proficiency in critical languages.


“I know firsthand the transformative power of education,” explained Congressman Cuellar. “I experienced it in my own life. We need to ensure that every student, regardless of their economic background, is prepared to compete in a 21st-century, competitive job market. These programs provide academic assistance to first-generation and disadvantaged students in college, ensuring that they have the resources they need to succeed.”


Congressman Cuellar added, “I would like to thank my fellow Appropriators, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Chairman Cole and Ranking Member DeLauro, for helping me secure these funds. This money will ensure that low-income students get the education and opportunities they deserve.”


Watch Congressman Cuellar speak on the House Floor here.