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Education Dept. Will Reconsider Grant Applications Rejected for Formatting Problems

Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, said on Wednesday that her department would reconsider 77 Upward Bound grant applications that the agency had previously rejected because of minor formatting problems.

Ms. DeVos, testifying before a committee at the U.S. House of Representatives, said that the decision to reject the applications had been made “under the purview of the previous administration.” Under the existing rules, she said, the department had no legal remedy to reconsider the applications, despite pleas over the past several weeks from members of both parties in both chambers of Congress.

That pressure intensified with Congress’s enacting this month of a budget for 2017 that provided $50 million in funds for the program. Several members of Congress said the budget had given the department an opening, if not an obligation, to act. On Wednesday, Ms. DeVos cited the $50-million allocation. The extra money “has materially changed our available options,” Ms. DeVos told the committee.

The Upward Bound program, which dates to the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, provides funds for colleges and other organizations to help low-income students prepare for college.

Following the uproar over the rejected grant applications, Ms. DeVos issued a department-wide memo forbidding any mandatory formatting rules for future grant applications. She also referred to that new rule in her testimony on Wednesday. “This is a bureaucratic requirement that we should be rid of now — and we are,” she said.

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