Wilder: Expand Pell Grants to make college affordable, accessible
The Oregon Alliance of Independent Colleges and Universities urges Congress to double the amount provided to students awarded Pell Grants. Doubling Pell is not only the most effective way to make college affordable and accessible for students, but it is also the easiest and most efficient way for Congress to make college possible for young adults and returning learners.
Today, there are nearly 7 million Americans who receive Pell Grants each year, hailing from Congressional districts across the country and using the education they receive to better themselves, their communities, and their states. Oregon students received $268,804,042 in Pell Grant awards during the 2019-20 academic year.
In the same year, 26% of the undergraduate student population at Alliance member colleges and universities made use of the Pell Grant. For 85% of undergraduate students, the Pell Grant is one piece of the financial aid puzzle, in addition to aid, grants, and scholarships they receive from the Alliance institutions they attend.
The Pell Grant has not kept pace with the increasing financial demands of higher education. When Pell Grants were developed nearly fifty years ago, they covered more than 75% of the total cost of college. Today, the maximum grant covers less than 30%.
The quickest way to provide accessible higher education is to make it financially attainable. Congress should join President Biden's commitment to doubling Pell and look to create a mandatory funding stream and an automatic increase indexed against the Consumer Price Index, in order to ensure the Pell Grant continues to meet the financial needs of future students.
It is essential for Congress to act now and double the Pell from $6,495 to $13,000. This will ensure community college is free for all Pell-eligible students and will curtail the debt taken on by students who decide to attend four-year colleges and universities.
Doubling Pell will provide young adults of all backgrounds (37% of alliance students identify as people of color) with differing levels of education attainment in their families (23% of alliance students are first generation) the ability to access the college or training program that best fits their educational needs. Additional money for students diversifies their choices for field of study, institution type, and duration of program.
Pell Grants have proven during the past five decades to be the most effective and equitable path to making college affordable. Doubling the Pell Grant will ensure that Congress continues to serve low- and moderate-income students and families from all backgrounds for years to come. It will open doors for all students at a time when opportunities, access, and affordability are most needed.
There is no better way to celebrate the Pell Grant's landmark 50th anniversary in June 2022 than doubling the program that has made college affordable for millions of Americans.
To learn more about how you can help with this important advocacy, please visit doublepell.org/.
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