June 25, 2021
The idea of doubling the maximum Pell Grant award has grown to be widely popular, garnering support from hundreds of organizations and people all the way up to President Biden. While the policy proposal may have seemed pie-in-the-sky a decade ago, it’s becoming less so now, according to advocates and experts.
“There is momentum like we’ve never seen before,” said Michele Streeter, associate director of policy and advocacy at the Institute for College Access and Success. “This is the first time we’ve ever seen the administration and a bicameral bill from committee leadership that actually is calling for doubling. That’s not even necessarily what I would’ve expected.”
The federal Pell Grant program provides need-based aid that doesn’t have to be repaid to low- and moderate-income students pursuing two- or four-year postsecondary degrees. But the amount of the grant aid available to students hasn’t kept up with the rising costs of college — the maximum Pell Grant used to cover close to 80 percent of the cost of college, and now it covers less than a third.
“Pell recipients have higher student debt burdens than their peers and borrow at double the rate of non-Pell recipients — those stem from the fact that it covers the lowest share of cost in the program’s history, and it’s just not keeping pace with the college cost,” Streeter said.