October 29, 2021
While many higher education advocacy groups are praising the Biden administration’s framework for a $1.75 trillion reconciliation package, there appears to be a noticeable shortcoming in the proposed legislation: a measly increase in the federal Pell Grant program.
The United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and other advocacy groups, had been leading the public charge on doubling Pell, the largest federal grant program offered to undergraduates to assist students from low-income households. But those public outcries appear to have soften in the wake of the Biden administration’s most recent proposal. This strategy appears to be in stark contrast to the tough rhetoric that was directed at President Obama during his two terms in office. Publicly and privately, HBCU leaders bemoaned the fact that Obama had not done enough to champion key programs like Pell.
“Increase the Pell Grant, Mr. President,” bellowed Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund in a 2015 interview with Diverse. “Well, you say he can’t do it by himself, but he isn’t even recommending it. Recommend it in your budget every year. Advocate for it. Fight for it.”
Unlike a loan, a Pell Grant does not have to be repaid, except under certain circumstances. The maximum award is currently $6,345, hardly enough to assist most low-income students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).