NAICU Washington Update

Sanders’ “College for All” Includes Some Private Colleges and Double Pell

April 23, 2021

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the “College for All Act” this week, proposing the entire menu of higher education investments Democrats campaigned on in the 2020 election, but now including some private, nonprofit colleges and the endorsement of the effort to double Pell Grants. 

Sen. Sander’s proposes grants to private Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSI)SIs to waive tuition for families with incomes up to $125,000and equity grants for under-resourced private, nonprofit HBCUs and MSIs under the Strengthening Institutions section of the Higher Education Act. 

Overall, the bill includes:
  • Free community college for all
  • Free in-state public 4-year college tuition for families making up to $125,000
  • Free tuition for families making up to $125,000 at private, nonprofit HBCUs and MSIs.
  • Double Pell Grants
  • Triple TRIO funding
  • Double GEAR UP funding 
  • Equity grants for under-resourced public colleges; and private nonprofit HBCUs and MSIs
The inclusion of significant funding increases to double the Pell Grant to $13,000, triple TRIO funding, and double GEAR UP funding would help students across all higher education sectors. Doubling Pell is a top priority for NAICU this year and is a new addition to the College for All Act, showing the increasing popularity of the proposal. 

Both the free community college and free in-state public 4-year college proposals are partnerships, requiring states to match federal dollars. The free tuition at private HBCUs and MSIs is a grant program. However, all three of these proposals include significant accountability measures for states and institutions to participate. 

The introduction of this bill is the first step in a process that is expected to span the next two years and involve the budget, education and appropriations committees in both chambers of Congress. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), a member of the Committee on Education and Labor, introduced companion legislation in the House. 

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