35 years ago the maximum Pell Grant paid for 77 percent of the cost of tuition at an in-state, four-year college, today, that same Pell Grant pays for less than one-third of a student’s education. Furthermore, students who want to attend school year round to finish their degree in less time are not allowed to receive year-round Pell funding.
With nearly nine million American students depending on Pell Grants to attend and complete college, this program must remain a priority in Washington.
Luckily, there is some good news. On Tuesday, Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Pell Grant Protection Act. The bill will:
- Make Federal Pell Grant a mandatory (automatic) spending program. Making Pell Grants mandatory means that funding for Pell will no longer be subject to the whims of Congress and Congress will not be able to cut Pell eligibility funding like it has in the past. The legislation also adjusts the grant amount each year to account for inflation and allows Congress to add “any additional amount” to increase the maximum Pell grant.
- Restore Year-Round Pell Grants. The bill will allow college students who wish to attend school year round, the ability to receive Pell funding during summer months.
We already know that the cost of college is too high for all students, but students from low-income families are faced with a particularly heavy burden. These students who are willing to work hard to earn a college degree should not be priced out of a quality education or have to take on unmanageable debt to achieve the dream of earning a degree.
Pell Grants go a long way in helping to keep college affordable for millions of Americans and they must be protected. This program is hugely important to ensuring that deserving students have the opportunity to go to and graduate from college.