The Pell Grant Program has been enormously successful in assuring access to college for our nation’s low-income undergraduates—assisting over 60 million students since its inception. The program’s focus on college access for low-income students, and its role as the foundation on which other federal financial aid is built, must be maintained.
The highest priority for the program is ensuring adequate funding. Through a combination of appropriated and mandatory funds, the total maximum grant is $5,845 for the 2016-17 award year. This support must be maintained and expanded.
Program improvements aimed at promoting student success and college completion also deserve support, particularly those that:
- Provide for Pell Flex. NAICU has recommended replacing the current system of specific annual grant amounts, which gives more federal aid to those who take longer to graduate, with a new system that rewards completion. Under such a system, every undergraduate of similar need would have access to the same amount of Pell Grant aid, whether they take four, five, or six years (or the equivalent) to complete.
- Provide Pell Grants for summer college attendance. This initiative, which would make Pell Grants available year-round, would serve as a means to promote innovation, increase college access and completion and improve time to degree.
Other related initiatives that are currently being discussed in Washington include efforts to provide Pell Grants for certain prisoners to reduce recidivism, and measures to extend Pell Grant eligibility to high schools students in dual enrollment programs. In addition, the Department of Education is conducting an experimental sites initiative to test expanded Pell Grant eligibility for alternative approaches to teaching and learning.