Michael T. Nietzel, Senior Contributor
July 13, 2021
A new coalition of higher education organizations has formed to press the case for doubling the Pell Grant, the federal program that provides financial aid to low- and moderate-income students to attend college. The Double Pell Alliance is launching a campaign to advance the #DoublePell movement. Its website can be found here.
The push to double the Pell comes just as the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee begins to mark up the main bill that provides funding for federal higher education programs. Included in the initial version of the bill is a provision that would increase the maximum Pell by $400 next year, from $6,495 to $6,895. That’s a significant boost to be sure, but it falls short of what many advocates had hoped for, which is to increase the maximum Pell to $13,000 in just a matter of a few years.
An example of the more aggressive approach is the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act. introduced by Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Representatives Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House Education & Labor Committee.
The legislation, if it became law, would – among other things:
set the maximum Pell award at $9,000 for 2023-24. It would then ramp up by $1,000 per year until reaching a maximum award level of $13,000 in 2027-2028.
expand the program to include DREAMers, and
restore lifetime eligibility for the program to 18 semesters rather than the 12 that’s now allowed.
First authorized via the Higher Education Act of 1965, the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant was implemented in 1972. The program was renamed in 1980 for Senator Claiborne Pell in honor of his efforts to create it. Today, the Pell Grant program serves more than 6.7 million students, or about 40% of all undergraduates.