June 20, 2024

Hirono, Murray, Reed, Whitehouse, Pocan, Scott Introduce Bill to Double Pell Grant, Make College More Affordable

The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act permanently indexes Pell Grants to inflation, increasing their purchasing power

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) introduced the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2024, bicameral legislation that would nearly double the Pell Grant maximum award, index the maximum award for inflation, and make other changes to expand the award for working students and families. The Pell Grant program is the cornerstone of federal financial aid for postsecondary education, serving over 6 million undergraduate students.

“Pell Grants help to make postsecondary education more affordable for thousands of students in Hawaii and millions across the country,” said Senator Hirono. “However, as the cost of attending college has continued to rise over the years, the purchasing power of the Pell Grant has steadily declined. I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation to restore the value of Pell Grants and enable more students to access higher education.”

“My siblings and I were able to go to college thanks to federal support, and students today deserve to know the federal government has their back and will help them pursue their dreams, too. Pell Grants cover far less than they used to, but this bill will help fix that—and provide long-term stability for Pell—by doubling the maximum award and indexing it to inflation,” said Senator Murray. “I’m going to keep pushing to pass this legislation and help ensure every student can pursue a higher education—no matter how much money their family has.”

“The Pell grant is the cornerstone of our federal financial aid programs.  But over the years, the grant has covered a shrinking percentage of the actual cost of college, requiring students to take on more debt or, even worse, not continue their education. This legislation would help expand access to Pell grants, lower student debt, strengthen our workforce and economy, and help deserving students achieve their full potential,” said Senator Reed.

“Pell Grants, one of Senator Claiborne Pell’s great legacies, have helped make college more affordable for generations of Rhode Islanders,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Our bill would increase the maximum Pell Grant award and expand eligibility for the program, giving more students the opportunity to make their dreams of higher education a reality.”

“The Pell Grant is the most important tool we have to help students afford college. Unfortunately, due to the rising cost of college, the purchasing power of Pell Grants has severely eroded over time,” said Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), House Committee on Education and the Workforce. “By doubling the maximum Pell award, and adjusting future awards for inflation, the Pell Grant Preservation & Expansion Act will go a long way to restore the purchasing power and help millions of students earn a quality degree, without being forced to take on excessive debt.”

“No one should be denied a chance at a higher education if they are smart and capable enough but are unable to afford it. As a recipient of the Pell Grant myself, I know just how instrumental of a tool it is to make college accessible for all,” Congressman Pocan said. “Unfortunately, skyrocketing tuition costs and perpetual underfunding continue to undermine this critical program. The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act would not only double the maximum Pell Grant, it would protect the program from future cuts, expand eligibility to include DREAMers, and ensure that postsecondary education is attainable for every student—regardless of their socioeconomic status.”

In addition to doubling the Pell Grant maximum award and indexing the maximum award for inflation, the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act also makes the Pell Grant funding fully mandatory to protect it from funding shortfalls, expands the program to include DREAMers, and restores lifetime eligibility for the program to 18 semesters, among other changes that will benefit students.

In addition to Senators Hirono, Murray, Reed, and Whitehouse, the bill is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Fetterman (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).  

In addition to Representatives Scott and Pocan, the bill is cosponsored in the House by Representatives Cori Bush (D-MO), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), John Garamendi (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Nikema Williams (D-GA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Dan Goldman (D-NY), Alma Adams (D-NC), Andre Carson (D-IN), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Seth Magaziner (D-RI), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act is endorsed by American Association of Community Colleges (AACC); Association of Community College Trustees (AACT); American Association for State College and Universities (AASCU); Association of American Universities (AAU); American Association of University Professors (AAUP); American Association of University Women (AAUW); American Council on Education (ACE); American Federation of Teachers (AFT); American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC); Asian Pacific Islander American Scholars (APIA Scholars); Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU); Arizona Students’ Association; Associated Students of the University of California: Berkeley; Center for American Progress (CAP); Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Denver Scholarship Foundation; The Education Trust (Ed Trust); Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP); Jobs for the Future (JFF); Menlo College; National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU); National College Attainment Network (NCAN); National Education Association (NEA); New American Higher Education Policy Program; National Skills Coalition (NSC); Partnership for the Future; Phi Beta Kappa; Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Southern California College Attainment Network; State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO); The Hope Center at Temple University; Third Way; The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS); Today’s Students Coalition (formerly HLA); uAspire; United Negro College Fund (UNCF); UNITE-LA; and Young Invincibles.

“APLU applauds Senators Hirono, Reed, and Whitehouse, Ranking Member Scott, and Representative Pocan for their leadership on Double Pell. This legislation to substantially boost Pell, index it to inflation, and expand eligibility would help millions more students. Pell Grants are critical to helping students afford and complete a life-changing college education while strengthening the nation’s workforce to compete globally,” said Mark Becker, President of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

“We’re proud to endorse the PGPEA, an important step forward in the fight to ensure equitable and affordable access to higher education for all students. Progress has been made in the past fifty years in overcoming discriminatory barriers and opening doors to students, but the rapidly increasing cost of college and high levels of student debt are curtailing access for many students. While the Pell grant remains an important aid for low-income students, inflation has eroded its value. The enhancements proposed in this bill will help guarantee that all students can access higher education–invaluable for building prosperity; advancing social, racial, and economic justice; strengthening democracy and civil society; and fostering knowledge and innovation,” said the American Association of University Professors.

“CLASP firmly believes in the transformative power of education as a pathway to economic mobility and social equity. The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act is a critical step toward ensuring that all students, regardless of their financial background, can access and complete higher education. By doubling the maximum Pell Grant award, shifting the Pell Grant program to fully mandatory funding, and allowing Dreamers to access federal financial aid, this legislation addresses the urgent needs of individuals with low incomes and communities of color. We wholeheartedly support this Act and urge lawmakers to prioritize its passage, as it represents a significant investment in our nation’s future,” said India Heckstall, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Law & Social Policy.

“Ed Trust is proud to support the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act, a transformative proposal to enhance the accessibility and affordability of higher education for millions of low-income students and students of color across the United States. By increasing the maximum Pell award, ensuring the grants keep pace with inflation, and expanding eligibility to undocumented students, this act addresses the growing financial barriers that impede educational attainment. Supporting this act is essential for fostering educational equity and ultimately ensuring that higher education remains a viable pathway to upward mobility for all Americans,” said Wil Del Pilar, Senior Vice President of EdTrust.

“The Pell Grant is the cornerstone of federal financial aid, but the only way we can ensure its long-term survival is to treat it just like other permanent, or ‘mandatory’ programs that aren’t subject to the whims of a tumultuous annual appropriations process,” said Bryce McKibben, Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy at The Hope Center at Temple University. “The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act would do just that—ensuring this vital grant covers more students with financial need, grows with college costs, and will be around for generations to come. It is a vision for a better and more inclusive future.”

“The Pell Grant program is our nation’s foundational investment in college affordability, but the award has not kept pace with rising costs, and the program’s funding structure leaves it vulnerable to annual cuts,” said Michele Zampini, Senior Director of College Affordability at TICAS. “We strongly support the PGPEA, which not only doubles the maximum Pell award to make college far more affordable for millions of low- and moderate-income students but expands, protects, and strengthens the program for years to come.”

“Staggering tuition costs, state disinvestment and the diminished purchasing power of the Pell Grant have made higher education increasingly unattainable—stifling the dreams of a generation and stymieing economic growth. The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act is a bold solution that will double the Pell Grant, make sure the award keeps up with inflation, restore additional semesters of eligibility, and relieve the annual budgetary pressures with mandatory funding. This act is a critical investment in the future of our country, and it is not one that can wait. I urge Congress to quickly adopt these important improvements to the Pell Grant program,” said Randi Weingarten, AFT President.

“SHEEO is proud to endorse the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act,” said Rob Anderson, SHEEO President. “Pell Grants remain the cornerstone federal program for college affordability, and this legislation will revitalize and expand Pell to make college more affordable for students in the years ahead. We urge Congress to take up and pass this important bill without delay.”

“The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act takes critical and long overdue steps to strengthen and stabilize the Pell Grant, restore its purchasing power to better meet student need today and into the future, and ensure that Pell can truly deliver on its promise of making college dreams accessible and affordable,” said Michelle Dimino, Director of Education at Third Way. “Third Way applauds Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) for championing this important legislation to invest in student success for generations to come.”

“Pell Grants are life-changing, opening doors for students to pursue their academic and career goals without the burden of excessive debt. Higher education associations, organizations, and advocacy groups have long advocated for doubling the maximum Federal Pell Grant award; this is an essential step in ensuring students from low- and moderate-income communities can access a more affordable college education. Furthermore, expanding Pell Grant eligibility to DACA recipients is a critical investment in the future of young adults and their well-being. Young Invincibles is proud to endorse the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act and continue to advocate for a debt-free path to higher education,” said Satra D. Taylor, Director of Higher Education and Workforce Policy and Advocacy at Young Invicibles.

“APIA Scholars supports the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2024 as a crucial step toward ensuring educational accessibility and equity for all students, particularly those from underserved communities. The cost of higher education remains a top barrier preventing students from enrolling in college and a significant factor in why currently enrolled students drop out. APIA Scholars’ data disaggregation work has further shown that many Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) students rely heavily on the Pell Grant to pursue higher education,” said Dr. Noël S. Harmon, President and Executive Director, APIA Scholars. “Preservation and expansion of the Pell Grant strengthens a lifeline for many underserved AANHPI students and reaffirms our commitment to breaking down financial barriers and empowering AANHPI students who are in need across the nation. Especially now, we believe that an expansion of the Pell Grant program is critical given stagnant completion rates across the country due to the lingering impact of the pandemic. We believe in the transformative power of education and bolstering the Pell Grant program represents a pivotal move toward making higher education accessible and achievable for all.”

The full text of the bill is available here. A fact sheet is available here.

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