A college student fills out a Pell Grant application. (Courtesy photo)
A college student fills out a Pell Grant application. (Courtesy photo)

Four Democratic Congress members introduced legislation that will permanently safeguard the federal Pell Grant program.

Reps. Susan Davis of California and Bobby Scott of Virginia, and Sens. Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii and Patty Murray of Washington introduced Tuesday, May 16 the Pell Grant Preservation & Expansion Act, which, if passed, would expand and continually keep the Pell Grant program, helping millions of low-income students offset the rising costs of college.

The lawmakers assert that the bill would improve the purchasing power of Pell Grants, permanently index the maximum grant to inflation, shift the Pell Grant program to fully mandatory funding, and restore eligibility for defrauded students.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that all students have access to a quality education without the fear of a lifetime of debt,” Davis said. “This bill will increase the purchasing power of the Pell Grant and give low-income students access to the education they need to get to the middle-class and beyond.”

The Pell Grant Preservation & Expansion Act also extends the program to DREAMers and restores eligibility to incarcerated individuals, in an effort to encourage them to support themselves and their families upon release.

“The Pell Grant is the most important tool we have to help low-income students afford higher education, but for too long Congress has neglected students by allowing the purchasing power of Pell Grants to erode over time,” Scott said.

The bill also increases support for working students, expands eligibility to short-term job training programs of high quality, and increases Pell Grant eligibility to 14 semesters to give non-traditional students more flexibility to complete their degrees.

“By reversing prior eligibility cuts and ensuring stable funding for a larger Pell Grant, the Pell Grant Preservation & Expansion Act will help millions of students reach their potential without being forced to take on excessive debt,” Scott said. “This bill is one of several initiatives House Democrats have proposed as part of the legislative campaign, Aim Higher, to make higher education work for all students.”

The bill also increases support for working students, expands eligibility for short-term job training programs of high quality, and increases Pell Grant eligibility to 14 semesters to give non-traditional students more flexibility to complete their degrees.

“Last year, more than 20,000 Hawaii students received financial support through the federal Pell Grant program,” Hirono said. “However, much work remains to ensure that more students receive a meaningful Pell Grant award.”

Murray insists that earning a college degree remains the key to opportunity for so many low-income students, but far too many students must take on massive amounts of debt to get the skills and education they need to get a good job and make a decent living.

“As a recipient of Pell Grants myself, I know firsthand the danger of President Trump’s vision for slashing student aid,” she said. “Instead, I will keep fighting to make college more affordable for students across the country.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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