Members of Congress Call on ED to Restore Pell Used at Closed Schools

By Joan Berkes, Policy & Federal Relations Staff

One of the tragedies of the recent for-profit school closures is the loss of limited aid spent by students on earning credits that will not gain them a credential. Although the Department of Education (ED) will discharge loans of these students under certain conditions and restore eligibility for subsidies, students are also subject to lifetime limits on Pell Grants. ED has said that it cannot restore Pell eligibility used at the closed school without legislative changes (FAQ #8). Now, at least two members of Congress are asking why.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, sent a letter dated October 6, 2016, to ED pointing out a section of the Higher Education Act (HEA) that she believes gives ED the authority to restore Pell Grant eligibility. “We cannot give students back the time they spent at institutions that closed,” Murray writes, “but you can ensure they have the resources they need to fulfill their dreams and continue their education elsewhere. I strongly advocate that you use this provision of the HEA to do so.”

Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), a member of the House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Committee, sent a letter dated October 11, 2016, pointing to the same provision of law and also calling for restoration of affected students’ Pell Grant eligibility. Messer writes that “According to U.S. House of Representatives legal counsel, section 437(c)(3) requires the Department of Education to restore or reset Pell eligibility for these students and, consequently, there is no need for a legislative fix referenced in information posted on the Department of Education’s website.” He asks ED to clarify why it believes this section of law provides inadequate legal authority to restore Pell Grant eligibility used at closed schools.


Publication Date: 10/14/2016

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