Colleges and universities call for doubling of Pell Grant

The American Council on Education has joined a broad coalition of nearly 1,200 organisations, including almost 900 colleges and universities, calling on Congress to double the maximum Pell Grant.

In an open letter to Congress, the coalition members said: “This long overdue investment will drive economic recovery, help address racial and economic inequities in college completion rates and increase overall educational attainment.”

The nation’s foundational investment in higher education, Pell Grants help nearly seven million low- and moderate-income students attend and complete college annually.

“Students from all 50 states and all corners of the country – from rural areas to cities to everywhere in between – rely on the Pell Grant programme to build their future. Pell Grants are especially critical for students of colour, with nearly 60% of Black students, half of American Indian or Alaska Native students, and nearly half of Latinx students receiving a Pell Grant each year,” the coalition members said in the letter.

But the share of college costs covered by the grant is at an all-time low, they said. At its peak, the maximum grant covered three-quarters of the cost of attending a four-year public college. Now, it covers less than one-third of that cost.

Due to this gap, Pell Grant recipients “bear disproportionate student debt burdens”, the coalition members said.

“Pell Grant recipients today are more than twice as likely as other students to have student loans, and grant recipients who borrow graduate with more than US$4,500 more debt than their higher-income peers.”

‘Critical need’

Students from low- and moderate-income families are in “critical need” of additional grant aid to pay for college, the coalition members say.

“Doubling the maximum Pell Grant – and permanently indexing the grant to inflation to ensure its value doesn’t diminish over time – will boost college enrolment, improve graduation rates, and honour the history and value of these grants as the keystone federal investment in college affordability.”

American Council on Education (ACE) President Ted Mitchell said in statement: “I am proud that ACE is joining with nearly 900 individual colleges and universities and more than 300 organisations to urge Congress to bring an affordable, high-quality college education within reach for all students by doubling the maximum Pell Grant.

“Doubling the maximum Pell Grant is something Congress can agree to on a bipartisan basis as a fast and effective way to bolster opportunity for millions of students.”

ACE is working with the Institute for College Access and Success, UNCF, the Student Aid Alliance, and other groups to advance the issue.