August 19, 2015

Hirono, Heinrich Introduce Bill To Increase Access To Pell Grants, Make College More Affordable

U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced S.1998, the Middle Class Creating Higher Education Affordability Necessary to Compete Economically (CHANCE) Act, a bill to increase access to affordable post-secondary education for low- to moderate-income students. The bill would address the significant loss in value of Pell Grants by adjusting them for inflation, reinstate year-round Pell Grants, and increase the number of eligible semesters to 15.

"As college tuition increases across the country, students and families are struggling to make ends meet," said Senator Hirono. "Unfortunately, the Pell Grant program has not grown at the same rate as rising college tuition. More than 23,000 Hawaii students rely on Pell Grants and those students deserve to know they can count on Pell Grants to help pay for college, regardless of their schedules, work, or family commitments. Investing in education is one of the best investments we can make to grow our middle class, and I'm proud to work with Senator Heinrich to help more students pursue their dreams."

"Pell Grants are the primary form of financial aid millions of students use to pay for tuition, giving them access to an education that might otherwise be out of reach," said Senator Heinrich. "As the cost of college has continued to skyrocket, this bill helps address the diminished purchasing power of Pell Grants, and ensures they remain a useful tool for students in New Mexico and across the country well into the future. The Middle Class CHANCE Act also makes it possible for students to continue their education year-round, providing flexibility and enabling them to join the workforce sooner."

According to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association and the College Board, the burden of paying for college has shifted to students as tuition continues to increase and state funding continues to decrease. Nearly 9 million students across the country depend on Pell Grants to pay for school.

More than 23,000 Hawaii students rely on the Pell Grant and more than 1,600 students used year-round Pell Grants before they were cut in 2011.

The Middle Class CHANCE Act will support students by:

•           Increasing the individual maximum award to $9,140, bringing the maximum amount to the average in-state tuition costs at public four-year institutions;

•           Restoring year-round Pell Grants, allowing students to receive additional Pell dollars for courses taken during summer or intercession; and

•           Allowing Pell Grant recipients to use awards for 15 semesters instead of the current 12 semesters.