The Plan to Double the Value of Pell Grants
Thanks to its bipartisan support, Pell Grants are always seemingly on the front-burner during congressional sessions, with both Republicans and Democrats aligned on the urgency of controlling college costs and boosting affordability of postsecondary education.
President Biden is no different, taking an aggressive approach to improve higher education by introducing plans to double the maximum value of the Pell Grant to $13,000. This level of investment, according to experts, is “necessary to close the gap between the rich and poor, giving everyone an opportunity to get an education after high school.” It will also better align Pell Grants with inflation to ensure that its value does not diminish, as some have argued has happened in the last few decades.
By doubling the Pell Grants’ maximum value, students already eligible for Pell will see an increase in their grant’s value. However plans also include changes to the program’s formula for determining eligibility for Pell, which will expand the potential benefits to reach more middle-class Americans. The proposal would cost $750 billion over 10 years.
On Feb. 8, the University of California took the possibilities one step further, launching a Double the Pell Campaign to “urge Congress…to charter a more affordable pathway to higher education for America’s students and families.” The university, which touts 56% of their in-state undergraduates pay no tuition largely due to their Cal Grant program, is pushing for a 2024 completion date to “ensure quality, affordable college education.”
Expanding Simplified Pell Grant Opportunities
In addition to doubling the maximum Pell Grant value, Biden is also looking to expand the reach of the student financial aid, while making it a more simple process.
Under his proposal, Pell eligibility would be easier to predict, as it would be pegged to federal poverty guidelines. The hope is if the process is clearer to potential student that they can, in fact, qualify for Pell aid, then they will be more likely to complete the FAFSA – the first step toward securing financial aid. (For reference, the high school class of 2018 missed out on $2.6 billion in Pell Grants because they didn’t complete the FAFSA, according to Nerdwallet.)
The proposed change would not only expand the pool of students who apply for, and benefit from, the Pell program, but the expansion would ensure “an additional 555,000 students qualify for Pell Grants each year, and an additional 1.7 million students qualify to receive the maximum” value each year, according to NPR.
In addition to easier Pell Grant opportunities, there are also proposed FAFSA changes, once again aimed at making the process simpler. Changes include moving the release date up to help students applying for colleges in the fall know specifics about financial aid, as well as allowing the IRS to automatically fill out big chunks of the application process.