Tell Congress to Stand up for Students and Not Raid Pell Grant Funding!

In early June 2016 we learned of plans to take $1.2B from the Pell program to fund other programs. Congressmen Bobby Scott, Ranking Member of the House Education & Workforce Committee, Rubén Hinojosa, Ranking Member of the Higher Education & Workforce Training Subcommittee, and the Congressional Tri-Caucus are urging their colleagues not to raid funding for a program that millions of students rely on to pay for college. They are calling instead for strengthening Pell Grants for all Pell students. We need your help to stop this raid NOW! Please tell Congress that Pell Grants are the most important federal investment in higher education, and urge them not to redirect Pell money to other programs.

We need to be investing in and strengthening Pell Grants to help more students complete college without burdensome debt. It is imperative that Congress use Pell Grant funds for Pell Grants only. Click here to send an email to your Representative and Senators, urging them to oppose the raid on Pell Grant funding.

Nearly eight million low and moderate-income Americans currently depend on Pell Grants to attend and complete 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, and grant recipients are already more than twice as likely to have student loans and they graduate with higher debt than higher-income students.

There are many ways to help students by strengthening Pell Grants -- beyond the proposed restoration of year-round Pell Grants -- that you can highlight for members of Congress, including:

  • Increasing the maximum Pell Grant award
  • Permanently adjusting the maximum Pell Grant for inflation each year
  • Resetting Pell Grant eligibility for students eligible for federal loan 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 on 6/9! Act today, before the $1.2 billion raid of Pell Grant funds is written into a bill that becomes the starting point for upcoming budget negotiations. 

Message

I’m writing to urge you to oppose any effort to raid Pell Grant funds during the 2017 appropriations process. Pell Grant funds should be used for Pell Grants only. We should be investing in and strengthening Pell Grants, not raiding Pell to fund other programs.

Prior budget agreements have reduced Pell Grants by more than $50 billion, and even eliminated eligibility entirely for some students. Pell Grant recipients are already twice as likely to borrow, and graduate with nearly $5,000 more debt than higher-income students, further compounding our nation’s growing student debt. The current maximum grant covers less than 30 percent of the cost of attending a four-year public college—the lowest share in more than 40 years. Furthermore, annual inflation adjustments that have helped keep the purchasing power of Pell Grants from eroding even further are set to expire after fiscal year 2017.

There are many important ways Congress can strengthen Pell Grants, including:

  • Increase the maximum Pell Grant award
  • Permanently adjust the maximum Pell Grant for inflation each year
  • Restore Pell Grant eligibility for students taking courses year-round
  • Reset Pell Grant eligibility for students eligible for federal loans discharges due to school closure or fraud
  • Restore Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals who will return to the community

Raiding Pell Grant funds not only misses these opportunities to strengthen the program, it increases the likelihood of future program cuts that would cut off access to higher education and exacerbate already record-high levels of student debt for the millions of low- and moderate- income college students who rely on Pell Grants to enroll in and complete college.

I appreciate your attention to this important issue, and hope you will ensure that Pell Grant funds are used only for Pell Grants.