News: Federal Policy & Advocacy

Congress Should Extend Annual Pell Grant Growth Into the Future

Wednesday, May 23, 2018  
Posted by: Carrie Warick, Director of Policy and Advocacy
Share |

Congress didn’t finalize the 2018 federal government budget until March this year, and with the next federal fiscal calendar starting in October, lawmakers moved straight into working on the next round. The March agreement included several pieces of good news for low-income students, and NCAN has submitted a letter encouraging Congress to continue their investment in students into the following year. It also outlines for the first time NCAN’s bold new proposal for maintaining the purchasing power of the Pell Grant. 

The biggest news out of the fiscal year 2018 spending package, which will fund the government through Sept. 30, 2018, is that the maximum Pell Grant award for the 2018-19 academic year will be $6,095. Congress also provided a 14-percent funding increase for Federal Work-Study and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), while TRIO and GEAR UP received additional funding, as well. 

“Every dollar counts for our low-income and first-generation college students,” NCAN Executive Director Kim Cook said. “NCAN appreciates that Congress has chosen to invest in an increase to the maximum Pell Grant and additional funds for Federal Work-Study and SEOG, all of which help close historical gaps of inequity. This appropriation is a step forward in the continuing climb to make college more affordable for American families.” 

The spending law also included NCAN-supported language for a technical change to allow scholarship providers to access FAFSA information from institutions via student consent. NCAN members ACCESS College Foundation, College Success Foundation, Southern California College Access Network, Higher Heights Youth Empowerment Programs, EducationQuest Foundation, and College Now Greater Cleveland joined in advocating for this addition.  

As Congress pivots to fiscal year 2019, NCAN followed up with our suggested funding levels for next year. With guidance from the member-led Policy Council, NCAN submitted a letter to both the House and the Senate appropriations committees stating our priorities for funding to support low-income students for the next year and outlining our aforementioned Pell Grant proposal.  

In 1975-76, the maximum Pell Grant award covered 79 percent of the cost of attendance for a four-year public education. While this proportion decreased over the next few years, it remained above 50 percent throughout the 1980s. But since then, the Pell Grant’s purchasing power has continued to decline. Even with the maximum grant increase to $6,095 for the 2018-19 academic year, NCAN anticipates that the maximum award will only cover 28 percent of the cost of a public, four-year degree. Our proposal is to gradually return the portion that the maximum Pell Grant covers to 50 percent over the next decade. 

In addition to this proposal, NCAN also echoed the changes made for fiscal year 2018 in asking for an approximately 14-percent increase in funding for SEOG and work-study. It is our hope that Congress will again boost these programs crucial to filling the gaps in our students’ financial aid packages.