House Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Help Working Students Access Financial Aid

By Joelle Fredman, NASFAA Staff Reporter

A bipartisan group of representatives introduced a bill late last month to help students who are working and/or have dependents access financial aid by extending students’ lifetime Pell Grant eligibility and raising the allowable income threshold for Title IV aid.   

The bill — dubbed the Strengthening Financial Aid for Students Act — was introduced by Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY), and co-sponsored by Reps. Don Young (R-AK), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ).

“Many students go to school while working, raising a family, or pursuing other goals, causing their degrees to take longer and cost more,” Van Drew said in a statement. “The Strengthening Financial Aid for Students Act increases support for these students, as well as those pursuing traditional paths, by increasing the Pell Grant awards and availability.”

Specifically, the legislation would increase the number of semesters for which a student may receive Pell Grant funding from 12 to 14, and raise the income protection allowance (IPA) by 35% (with annual increases based on the Consumer Price Index), which would keep more of a student's earnings from being counted in their Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

“By increasing lifetime eligibility limits on Pell Grants, the Strengthening Financial Aid for Students Act would expand college access for our nation’s neediest students,” NASFAA President Justin Draeger said in a statement. “The bill also makes changes to the underlying federal student aid eligibility formula to ensure that working students are not unduly penalized when it comes to qualifying for financial aid. The financial aid community stands in support of this bill.” 

For award year 2020-21, the lawmakers proposed increasing the IPA for dependent students to $9,230, for single, separated, or married independent students who are both enrolled to $14,360, and for married independent students where one spouse is enrolled to $23,030. For students with dependents other than their spouse, the lawmakers included a chart in the text of the bill detailing income adjustments that would add $8,710 for each family member and subtract $6,180 for each dependent who is also enrolled in college.

“Working students should not lose financial aid for simply trying to cover their basic needs, nor should dire hardship lead to an exhaustion of Pell Grant eligibility, ” Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “Congress must seek solutions to the student debt crisis facing our country, and this bipartisan legislation is a step in the right direction.”


Publication Date: 9/6/2019

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