By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter
Congressional Democrats recently unveiled new legislation that would seek to ensure that federal resources keep up with changing economic trends by restoring the automatic annual inflation adjustment to the Federal Pell Grant program. The bill, referred to as the Pell Grant Sustainability Act, was introduced by Reps. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) and Susie Lee (D-Nev.), who both argue that the value of the Pell Grant needs to cover the rising costs associated with higher education.
“The time has come for Congress to make a substantial investment in the Pell Grant program,” said Karen McCarthy, NASFAA’s Vice President of Public Policy and Federal Relations. “The current maximum is increasingly insufficient to move the needle on college access, leaving low-income students to borrow high amounts or, worse yet, not attend postsecondary education at all. Restoring the automatic annual inflation adjustment, which expired after the 2017-18 award year, is a welcome step forward in ensuring our nation's lowest-income students have the opportunity to afford a higher education.”
NASFAA in June 2021 published an issue brief calling on Congress to double the Pell Grant maximum award to $13,000 to restore its purchasing power for low- and moderate-income students struggling to meet college costs. Doubling the Pell Grant would make up for necessary investments in federal student aid that have been pushed off for decades.
Under this current drafted proposal, H.R. 6537 (117), proponents aim to respond to record inflation where the consumer price index has reportedly climbed 7% in 2021.
“Our Pell Grant system has made major inroads to help Americans of all backgrounds earn their degrees, but this success will not be sustained if the value of these grants continues to diminish as costs rise,” Casten said. “I’m proud to introduce the Pell Grant Sustainability Act with Congresswoman Lee to ensure these grants continue to open doors to education for generations to come.”
Congressional advocates further demonstrate the need of the legislation by referencing data compiled in NASFAA’s Issue Brief: Doubling the Maximum Pell Grant, which found that the 2020-21 maximum Pell Grant of $6,495 covers only 26% of the average cost of attendance at a public four-year institution, while the maximum grant in 1975-76 covered more than three-quarters of the cost of attending a public four-year institution.
The measure now heads to the House Education and Labor Committee. Additional endorsements include American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, the Institute for College Access & Success, American Association of Colleges and Universities, National Association for College Admissions Counseling, and National College Attainment Network.
Stay tuned to Today’s News for further coverage of this legislation.
Publication Date: 2/3/2022
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