Higher Learning Advocates’ Statement on the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act

Higher Learning Advocates’ Statement on the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act

WASHINGTON (June 16, 2021) — Today, 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) introduced the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act, which would take important steps toward doubling the maximum Pell Grant award. Executive Director Julie Peller made the following statement regarding the legislation:

“The Pell Grant program helps millions of low-income students access higher learning opportunities, but it has not kept pace with the quickly rising cost of tuition and living expenses at many colleges. In the 1979-1980 academic year, the maximum Pell Grant covered more than three-quarters of the cost of college. Today, it covers less than a quarter on average. It’s time to increase the maximum Pell Grant, and Higher Learning Advocates commends the introduction of legislation that would make this a reality for today’s students.

The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act would double the maximum Pell Grant available over a five-year period, increasing the current maximum grant of $6,495 to $13,000 by 2027-2028 academic year. This substantial increase in the Pell Grant would make higher education more accessible to many of today’s students and is an important step toward ensuring that our higher education system is affordable for all. The legislation would also shift the Pell Grant program to fully mandatory funding, ensuring that Pell Grants will be fully funded into the future without risk of funding shortfalls, as Higher Learning Advocates recommended earlier this year.

In addition, this legislation would expand access to the Pell Grant program to DREAMers, who are currently restricted from accessing federal funds, allowing many additional students the chance to pursue a degree or credential. It would also broaden access for part-time students, many of whom are adult students returning to higher learning later in life. 

Finally, we are especially glad to see that the legislation includes the reset of a student’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) status, something for which Higher Learning Advocates has been a long-time advocate. Students should not indefinitely lose access to federal financial aid for one enrollment period that results in a low GPA or low attempted-completed units ratio. The current federal law is outdated and creates a barrier for returning adult students to be able to complete their post-secondary education goals. By providing the opportunity for students to return after a period of non-enrollment and be reinstated for federal financial aid, this legislation can help ensure that more students are able to earn degrees and credentials, regardless of their academic history.

The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act represents an important step forward in ensuring that higher learning is accessible to and affordable for all of today’s students, especially low-income students and students of color who have long been underserved by our higher education system. We urge Members of Congress to support this legislation so that today’s students can succeed.”