What They’re Saying: Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act

Washington, D.C. – Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), chairman of the House Education & Labor Committee, as well as Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, reintroduced the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act, legislation that would double the Pell Grant award, index the award to inflation, and make other changes to expand the award for working students and families.

Here’s what leading higher education groups are saying about the bill:

The Institute for College Access & Success: “We applaud Sen. Mazie Hirono, Rep. Mark Pocan, Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray, and House Education & Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott for proposing historic investments to strengthen and improve the longstanding federal Pell Grant program. Introduced today, the Pell Grant Preservation & Expansion Act of 2021 would make college more affordable and accessible for millions of students and help drive an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. … This bill would make long overdue and critically needed investments in the Pell Grant program by doubling the maximum award, permanently indexing the grant to inflation, shifting the program fully to mandatory funding, and expanding Pell access to DREAMers.”

Institute for Higher Education Policy: “The bill also makes equity-driven reforms to deliver financial support to many of today’s students – including working students, adult students, and returning students – who currently face barriers to Pell Grant eligibility. These changes include restoring the lifetime eligibility for the Pell Grant program to 18 semesters, offering a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) reset to restore Pell Grant eligibility for returning students, and delivering more aid to students who attend on a part-time basis. The bill will ensure that students from low- and moderate-income backgrounds have the financial support to attend and succeed in college, in a way that recognizes students’ varied pathways to a degree or credential.”

National College Attainment Network: “Today, Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Patty Murray (D-WA), and Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced a bicameral bill – the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2021 – that would make NCAN’s top priority of doubling the Pell Grant a reality. This bill addresses the stagnating purchasing power of the Pell Grant for the long term by setting a five-year plan to reach a $13,000 maximum Pell Grant in 2027-28, which is double the 2021-22 maximum award of $6,495. Further, the Pell Grant maximum would be automatically adjusted for inflation each year annually after reaching the $13,000 threshold. … Students who receive Pell Grants face a dwindling pool of truly affordable public postsecondary options and rising unmet need in their pursuit of a degree. NCAN’s research shows that only 23% of public bachelor’s degree institutions and 41% of community colleges were affordable for a student who received the average Pell Grant in 2018-19. Reversing the trend of decreasing affordability is a key step necessary to close the equity gaps in postsecondary attainment.”

Association of American Universities: “As the voice for America’s leading research universities, we applaud Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) for their work to make college more affordable and accessible. Doubling the Pell Grant and expanding eligibility are major steps in ensuring that all students, regardless of status and financial means, can achieve their American dream,” said President Barbara R. Snyder. 

Third Way: “The Pell Grant program is the foundation of our federal investment in student financial aid, helping more than seven million low- and moderate-income students access higher education each year, including 60% of Black and 50% of Latino undergraduates. Yet as college has become more and more expensive, the size of students’ Pell awards has not kept pace: in the 1970s, the maximum grant covered more than three-quarters of the cost of attendance at a public four-year college, while today it covers less than one-third. This steep decline in the purchasing power of Pell harms educational opportunity for students with the greatest financial need—and as the nation rebuilds from the impacts of COVID-19, it’s past time to reinvest in our students and their futures. We believe the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act, introduced by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI), and House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA), takes significant and meaningful strides toward restoring the promise of Pell Grants and sustaining the program for the next generation. … At a moment in which the importance of our higher education system in individuals’ social mobility and the nation’s economic recovery looms large, the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act sends a clear message to low-income students and students of color that the federal government will continue to support and invest in their success. We commend the bill’s introduction and encourage Members of Congress from both parties to join in support of this legislation and in further work to increase college access and affordability for all students.”

Association of Young Americans: “The Association of Young Americans (AYA) is grateful to Chairwoman Murray, Senator Hirono, Chairman Scott and Congressman Pocan for their leadership and advocacy for doubling the Pell grant. The introduction of the Pell Grant Expansion Act, if passed into law, would be a momentous step forward for young Americans seeking to obtain a higher education degree without the fear of destabilizing debt. The bill would restore the purchasing power of Pell by raising the maximum award to $13,000 over five years, expand access to part-time students, and increase eligibility to 18 semesters. These improvements mean more young people, especially those from low-and moderate-income and disadvantaged backgrounds, would be able to access and afford higher education, leading to increased college completion rates and reducing overall student loan debt. AYA is proud to support this important piece of legislation,” Lisa Giordano, AYA’s Executive Director said.

American Federation of Teachers: “For nearly 50 years, the Pell Grant has been a bedrock of federal assistance to low-income students pursuing a college degree. And while it remains a critical source of support to make higher education more affordable and accessible, its purchasing power has diminished over time, putting college out of reach for far too many. Now, Congress has an opportunity to work with the Biden administration on one of the administration’s major goals: expanding college to a broad swath of the American public by improving the power of the Pell Grant. By doubling the maximum award, restoring a higher number of eligible semesters per student, and fully funding the program, Pell Grants can continue to be foundational to making higher education a reality for more Americans,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said.

Student Debt Crisis: “In America, every student should have access to quality higher education without the crushing burden of debt. But, the reality is that lower-income students, many of who are Black and Brown students, are shut out from higher education because of the enormous costs. Those who do attend college, leave with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans they may never be able to pay back. The Pell Grant Preservation & Expansion Act will reinvest in one of the most powerful tools we have to help lower-income students afford college, open opportunities to prosper, and address racial disparities in higher education. We applaud Senators Mazie Hirono and Patty Murray as well as Reps. Mark Pocan and Bobby Scott for their leadership on this critical piece of legislation," said Cody Hounanian, program director of Student Debt Crisis.

American Council on Education: “We applaud Senators Hirono and Murray and Representatives Pocan and Scott for introducing the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act. This exceptionally important legislation would ensure that Pell Grants will truly put college within the reach of millions of talented students. We know that doubling the maximum Pell Grant to $13,000 and making Dreamers eligible is the quickest and most effective way to boost the ability of millions of students from low- and moderate-income families to access an affordable, high-quality college education. …Students from all 50 states and all corners of the country—from rural areas to cities to everywhere in between—rely on the Pell Grant program to pursue their college aspirations. The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act ?will dramatically boost access and opportunity for those and future students and their families, and will make needed improvements to secure the future of the program. We look forward to working with members of the House and Senate and the Biden administration to enact this vital legislation.”

Association of Public Land Grants and Universities: “We applaud the House and Senate reintroduction of the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act (PGPEA). This bill sets an important legislative pathway to double the maximum federal Pell Grant award to $13,000, which would make the dream of an affordable higher education a reality for millions of disadvantaged current and prospective students. A higher education has long been the most effective way to ensure upward economic mobility. The Pell Grant program has been central in our nation’s efforts to ensure students from low-income households have the opportunity to go to college, earn a degree, and experience unlimited, lifelong opportunities for success. This bill also proposes critical updates to the Pell Grant program, including fully funding the program through mandatory spending, reinstating the mandatory inflation adjustment for grants, and extending eligibility to Dreamers. These are essential policies that will support higher education access and success for low-income students and make critical progress in achieving equity goals.”

National Association of Independent College and Universities: “Doubling the Pell Grant maximum from $6,495 to $13,000 is the single most important step Congress can take to make access to college possible for all students. Pell Grants are a proven bipartisan program and the fairest and most efficient way to help low-income and first-generation students access and complete college. Additional grant aid helps keep low-income students in college and on track to graduation. As we attempt to bring America back to strong and sustainable economic growth, doubling Pell Grants is one of the most effective and immediate tools that policy makers can use to accelerate economic recovery. I applaud the work Senators Hirono and Murray and Representatives Pocan and Scott have put into crafting this legislation and the focus they have put on students and families,” said NAICU President Barbara Mistick.

University of Hawaii: “Mahalo to Senator Hirono for her introduction of the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act. A stronger and expanded Pell Grant program is one of the best ways we can help economically disadvantaged students advance themselves, their families and their communities with the benefits of higher education,” said UH President David Lassner.

Chaminade University of Honolulu: “Attaining a college degree has never been more important and yet today, the pathway to a college degree remains out of reach for too many students throughout the country and particularly in Hawaii. Together, we have the power to change that, which is why we strongly support this ambitious and critical legislation to expand access to Pell Grants and double the maximum award to ensure all students are getting the financial assistance they need. We would like to thank U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono for her strong leadership in championing this effort, especially at a time when so many families are struggling. The Pell Grant has proved an incredibly powerful tool, but we must ensure it continues to hold the same promise for today’s learners—whether they are headed to college from high school or seeking to add new skills for the modern workforce. Whatever their goals, we know with the right help they have the power to make positive change,” said Lynn Babington, President. 


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