June 26, 2024

Van Hollen, Cardin Join Colleagues in Introducing Bill to Double Pell Grant, Make College More Affordable

The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act permanently indexes Pell Grants to inflation, increasing their purchasing power

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) joined Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Representatives Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) in introducing the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2024, bicameral legislation that would nearly double the Pell Grant maximum award, index the maximum award for inflation, and make other changes to expand the award for working students and families. The Pell Grant program is the cornerstone of federal financial aid for postsecondary education, serving over 6 million undergraduate students.

“Federal Pell Grants are a critical financial lifeline for students working toward a college degree, but their value has been far outstripped by the runaway cost of higher education. It’s long past time that we take action to strengthen the Pell Grant to open the doors to greater educational and economic opportunity for students across the nation,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“The only prerequisite for secondary education opportunities should be a passion for learning. The Pell Grant program is a proven pathway for more diversity on college campuses and ensures that higher education is not reserved for those with generational wealth,” said Senator Cardin.

“Pell Grants help to make postsecondary education more affordable for thousands of students in Hawaii and millions across the country,” said Senator Hirono. “However, as the cost of attending college has continued to rise over the years, the purchasing power of the Pell Grant has steadily declined. I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation to restore the value of Pell Grants and enable more students to access higher education.”

“My siblings and I were able to go to college thanks to federal support, and students today deserve to know the federal government has their back and will help them pursue their dreams, too. Pell Grants cover far less than they used to, but this bill will help fix that—and provide long-term stability for Pell—by doubling the maximum award and indexing it to inflation,” said Senator Murray. “I'm going to keep pushing to pass this legislation and help ensure every student can pursue a higher education—no matter how much money their family has.”

“The Pell grant is the cornerstone of our federal financial aid programs.  But over the years, the grant has covered a shrinking percentage of the actual cost of college, requiring students to take on more debt or, even worse, not continue their education. This legislation would help expand access to Pell grants, lower student debt, strengthen our workforce and economy, and help deserving students achieve their full potential,” said Senator Reed.

“Pell Grants, one of Senator Claiborne Pell’s great legacies, have helped make college more affordable for generations of Rhode Islanders,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Our bill would increase the maximum Pell Grant award and expand eligibility for the program, giving more students the opportunity to make their dreams of higher education a reality.”

“The Pell Grant is the most important tool we have to help students afford college. Unfortunately, due to the rising cost of college, the purchasing power of Pell Grants has severely eroded over time,” said Ranking Member Scott, House Committee on Education and the Workforce. “By doubling the maximum Pell award, and adjusting future awards for inflation, the Pell Grant Preservation & Expansion Act will go a long way to restore the purchasing power and help millions of students earn a quality degree, without being forced to take on excessive debt.”

“No one should be denied a chance at a higher education if they are smart and capable enough but are unable to afford it. As a recipient of the Pell Grant myself, I know just how instrumental of a tool it is to make college accessible for all,” Congressman Pocan said. “Unfortunately, skyrocketing tuition costs and perpetual underfunding continue to undermine this critical program. The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act would not only double the maximum Pell Grant, it would protect the program from future cuts, expand eligibility to include DREAMers, and ensure that postsecondary education is attainable for every student—regardless of their socioeconomic status.”

In addition to doubling the Pell Grant maximum award and indexing the maximum award for inflation, the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act also makes the Pell Grant funding fully mandatory to protect it from funding shortfalls, expands the program to include DREAMers, and restores lifetime eligibility for the program to 18 semesters, among other changes that will benefit students.

In addition to Senators Van Hollen, Cardin, Hirono, Murray, Reed, and Whitehouse, the bill is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).  

In addition to Representatives Scott and Pocan, the bill is cosponsored in the House by Representatives Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-Northern Marina Islands), Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Seth Magaziner (D-R.I.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act is endorsed by American Association of Community Colleges (AACC); Association of Community College Trustees (AACT); American Association for State College and Universities (AASCU); Association of American Universities (AAU); American Association of University Professors (AAUP); American Association of University Women (AAUW); American Council on Education (ACE); American Federation of Teachers (AFT); American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC); Asian Pacific Islander American Scholars (APIA Scholars); Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU); Arizona Students’ Association; Associated Students of the University of California: Berkeley; Center for American Progress (CAP); Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Denver Scholarship Foundation; The Education Trust (Ed Trust); Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP); Jobs for the Future (JFF); Menlo College; National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU); National College Attainment Network (NCAN); National Education Association (NEA); New American Higher Education Policy Program; National Skills Coalition (NSC); Partnership for the Future; Phi Beta Kappa; Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Southern California College Attainment Network; State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO); The Hope Center at Temple University; Third Way; The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS); Today’s Students Coalition (formerly HLA); uAspire; United Negro College Fund (UNCF); UNITE-LA; and Young Invincibles.

The full text of the bill is available here. A fact sheet is available here.