Student debt is hitting record highs, and low-income students already graduate with the most debt. Yet we have just learned that some in Congress are planning to raid Pell Grant funds to spend them on other programs. These Pell funds are reserved to help make sure the most financially vulnerable college students don't have to borrow even more. However, Congressmen Bobby Scott, Ranking Member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, and Rubén Hinojosa, Ranking Member of the Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee have sent a letter to Congress urging them not to raid funding for this program that nearly eight millions students rely on to pay for college.
Prior harmful cuts to Pell Grants reduced grant sizes for some students and eliminated eligibility entirely for others. The maximum Pell Grant now covers less than 30% of the cost of attending a four-year public college. Grant recipients are already more than twice as likely to have student loans, and they graduate with higher debt than higher-income students.
Pell Grants are the most important federal investment in higher education, and Pell money should not be redirected to other programs. We need to be investing in and strengthening Pell Grants to help more students complete college without burdensome debt. There are many ways to help students by strengthening Pell Grants, including:
- Increasing the maximum Pell Grant award
- Permanently adjusting the maximum Pell Grant for inflation each year
- Restoring Pell Grant eligibility for students taking courses year-round
- Resetting Pell Grant eligibility for students eligible for federal loans discharges due to school closure or fraud
- Restoring Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals who will return to the community
The Senate is expected to release its plan to fund Pell Grants next week, and that bill will become the starting point for upcoming budget negotiations. As Americans are struggling more than ever to pay for the rising cost of college, we should be working to bolster the Pell Grant program, not hamper it.