Senators to Trump: Expand Pell Grant to Make College More Affordable
28 Senators urge Trump Administration to help students pay for college by expanding Pell Grant starting in FY 2017
WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help make college more affordable for American families, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) joined with 25 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump asking him to expand the Pell Grant beginning in FY 2017.
Pell Grants are federal, need-based financial aid awarded to qualified undergraduate students. Pell grants help pay for tuition, but unlike student loans, they do not need to be paid back. Last year, over 7 million students nationwide, including 30,000 Rhode Island students, benefited from over $28 billion in Pell Grants. The maximum grant for the current school year is $5,815.
As the Senators note in the letter, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee voted last year to maintain the scheduled increase in the maximum grant to $5,935 and restore access to Pell Grants year-round, allowing students to accelerate their studies beyond the traditional two semesters per year.
“As the new Congress and Administration work together to complete the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations process, we ask for your support for strengthening mandatory and discretionary funding for the maximum Pell Grant, restoring access for year-round studies, and protecting Pell surplus funds,” the Senators wrote.
“Pell Grants are a key source of funding for students who have the talent but not the financial means to go to college. This program is vital to maintaining a highly educated workforce and keeping college affordable for millions of working families,” said Reed. “We must ensure that these grants keep up with the rising cost of college, so this generation can continue to compete in the global economy. I am pleased my colleagues have recognized the importance of maintaining funding and will continue working to ensure qualified students have access to the financial aid they need.”
“In the early years of the program, Pell Grants helped lift a generation into the middle class by covering nearly the entire cost of tuition at public universities,” said Whitehouse. “But the price tag of a college education has increased rapidly for decades, eroding the purchasing power of a Pell Grant. It’s time President Trump renews the noble vision of the late senator from Rhode Island by giving the children of hardworking families a fair shot at a college education, which is still the best ticket to the middle class in America.”
“More than 21,000 Hawaii students depend on Pell Grants to pay for college. But under Republican majorities, Pell Grants are under the constant threat of irresponsible cuts and dismantlement—even though college today is more expensive than ever,” Senator Mazie K. Hirono said. “Investing in education is foundational, and students deserve to know they can count on Pell Grants to help pay for college, regardless of their schedules, work, or family commitments.”
Other Senators who signed the letter include Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA), Al Franken (D-MN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Angus King (I-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Time Kaine (D-VA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Bill Nelson (D-FL).
The full text of the letter is below:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Ensuring that more Americans are able to earn college degrees and other postsecondary credentials will increase our productivity, spur innovation, and lay the foundation for robust economic growth. We are writing to ask for your support for making college more affordable by expanding the Pell Grant, starting with Fiscal Year 2017.
The Pell Grant is the bedrock of our federal financial aid programs, helping roughly eight million students per year pay for college. Last year, on a bipartisan basis, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee voted to maintain the scheduled increase in the maximum grant to $5,935 and restore access to Pell Grants year-round, allowing students to accelerate their studies beyond the traditional two semesters per year. As the new Congress and Administration work together to complete the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations process, we ask for your support for strengthening mandatory and discretionary funding for the maximum Pell Grant, restoring access for year-round studies, and protecting Pell surplus funds.
We must do everything that we can to ensure that this generation of Americans has the educational opportunities necessary to achieve the American Dream. As we move beyond Fiscal Year 2017 funding decisions, we look forward to working with you to further strengthen the Pell Grant and make college more affordable for American families.
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