Debt Ceiling Deal May Endanger Plan to Double Pell Grants by 2029

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“President Joe Biden pledged to double the maximum Pell Grant by 2029, but his recent debt ceiling deal is seemingly at odds with that plan.

Biden’s deal struck with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy places spending caps on discretionary spending for fiscal years 2024 and 2025. Factoring in projected inflation over the next two years, the deal will essentially cut government spending on non-defense programs through 2025.

That leaves Biden’s plan to double the Pell Grant in a precarious position.

Pell Grants are the primary vehicle the federal government uses to help low-income college students afford higher education. Biden has consistently raised the maximum Pell Grant award each year while he’s been in office, usually by raising the amount of discretionary funds designated for the program in appropriations bills.

With this in mind, advocates say that Congress and the White House are going to have to make tough calls on where Pell expansion sits on the long list of priorities.


Does the Debt Ceiling Deal Make It Impossible to Double Pell?

Despite the spending caps, continued Pell expansion isn’t a lost cause.

Julie Peller, executive director at Higher Learning Advocates, told BestColleges that Biden can shift his focus to mandatory spending to raise the maximum Pell Grant. This would take congressional action outside of the traditional appropriations bill, so it would still take convincing a split Congress to get it done.

‘If they continued to be steadfast in wanting to get that done, there is the non-appropriations option for sure,’ she said.

Pell Grants use a mix of mandatory and discretionary spending each year. The majority of the program’s funds come from discretionary spending, which is laid out in yearly appropriations bills.

Biden and other lawmakers could also choose to raise the Pell in appropriations.”