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Hirono, Murray, Reed, Whitehouse, Pocan, Scott Introduce 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 ~

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) introduced 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.


“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 U.S. Senator Jack 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 Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), 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.

“Every student deserves the opportunity to pursue higher education, no matter the size of their parent’s paycheck,” said Senator Padilla. “As a proud first-generation college graduate, I know the challenges students face in accessing an affordable education, especially as the cost of education continues to climb. Congress must take action to make higher education more accessible for all families and students, including the Dreamers who call America home and strengthen our workforce and communities.”

“Every year, millions of students rely on Pell Grants to afford higher education,” said Kaine. “I’m proud to introduce this bill to increase the Pell Grant award, boost funding for the program, and allow more students to access this crucial support. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill to help future generations get the education and training they need to pursue their dreams.”

“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.

“Pell Grants open the door to higher education for millions of students who otherwise wouldn’t have access to college.  But it’s vital that Pell Grants track with the true costs of obtaining a college degree,” said Durbin. “I’m joining my colleagues to introduce the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act to double the Pell Grant award to support students as they continue their education, regardless of their financial situation.”

“Higher education should be a ticket to the middle class—not a barrier to opportunity,” Duckworth said. “Every American deserves the opportunity to enroll in college and complete a degree, and expanding and strengthening Pell Grants is one important way to help. I’m proud to join Senators Hirono and Murray in introducing this legislation to do just that and help ensure more students have access to higher education.”

“The federal Pell Grant program opens the door to higher education opportunities, helping millions of students and families access education—including many here in Vermont. But chronic underfunding has prevented the program from keeping up with inflation and fully meeting students’ needs—and undocumented students like Dreamers are cut out entirely,” said Senator Welch. “This bill improves the Pell Grant program to help make higher education more attainable and affordable for all.”

“All Granite Staters deserve access to affordable higher education. I’m proud to cosponsor the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act to increase the impact of Pell Grants, which serve as a lifeline to higher education and economic mobility for millions of students across the country,” said Senator Shaheen.

“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 Ben Cardin.

“Pell Grants make it possible for every student, regardless of their socioeconomic status, to pursue higher education and earn a quality degree without being burdened by excessive debt. This critical legislation restores the purchasing power of the Pell Grant and ensures that this instrumental tool continues to make college accessible for all. With the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act, we can be sure that more students are supported in their academic endeavors and are provided with the opportunity to succeed,” said Blumenthal.

“Each year, Pell Grants help make college more affordable for millions of students and families across the country, including hundreds of thousands in New York,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud to cosponsor the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2024, which will double the maximum Pell Grant award and expand Pell Grant eligibility to help make college more affordable for low-income and first-generation college students. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this bill passed to ensure that all students have access to higher education, regardless of socioeconomic status.”

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Pell Grants and low-interest student loans, and by strengthening these federal investments, we can help break down barriers for low-income students across the country who may otherwise be prevented from pursuing higher education because of the daunting financial burden,” said Senator Reverend Warnock. “This legislation will bolster Pell Grants for generations of students to come, unlocking opportunity for countless Americans. I am proud to work with Senator Hirono on this and look forward to getting it done.”

“As a proud recipient of the Pell Grant, I know the transformative power of the program in turning the dream of higher education into a reality for students in California and across the nation,” said Senator Butler. “We must expand the Pell Grant Program to put higher education in reach so that every student has the opportunity to succeed.”

“The Pell Grant has long been an incredible resource for students and it's important we ensure future generations can continue to benefit from the program,” said Klobuchar. “This legislation will expand the Pell Grant, double the maximum award, and protect its true value from eroding over time to make college more affordable for students from all walks of life.”

“Education is the great equalizer, and it's essential that everyone has access to quality education, regardless of their economic situation,” said Senator Fetterman. “The Pell Grant has been a crucial asset in helping underserved communities keep up with the rapidly climbing costs of higher education. This legislation enhances that initiative, balancing the scale in support of working students and families in achieving their professional goals. I am proud to join my colleagues in expanding this vital resource to ensure higher education remains within reach for all Americans.”

“Every student in America should be able to access higher education without the fear of being saddled with a lifetime of crushing debt,” said Senator Merkley. “I was the first in my family to go to college, and I know that high tuition costs can be an insurmountable barrier for many students. Expanding and preserving Pell Grants—a key federal financial aid program—will help put this dream within reach for millions and unlock the doors of opportunity for current and future generations.”

“Pell Grants make college possible for millions of first-generation, low-income, immigrant, Black, brown, and non-traditional students every year. As we face a college affordability and student debt crisis, now is the time to strengthen and expand Pell,” said Senator Markey.

“Pell Grants help millions of students afford higher education, but as the cost of college has skyrocketed since the Pell Grant was established in 1973, the maximum award hasn’t come close to keeping up. In fact, the Pell Grant once covered most of the cost of attending a public or community college, but today it covers less than a quarter of those costs. This legislation would give the program a much-needed boost and help ensure that all students can afford college if that's the pathway that best suits their academic and career goals,” said Murphy.

“The federal Pell Grant has enabled generations of Americans to pursue a college degree. But the Pell Grant’s purchasing power has not kept up with rising tuition costs, leaving the high price of a college education out of reach for many Americans,” said Senator Smith. “I am proud to be a part of this legislation that will revitalize the Pell Grant and help make higher education more affordable for Americans.”

In addition to Senators Hirono, Murray, Reed, and Whitehouse, the bill is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Fetterman (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).  

In addition to Representatives Scott and Pocan, the bill is cosponsored in the House by Representatives Cori Bush (D-MO), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), John Garamendi (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Nikema Williams (D-GA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Dan Goldman (D-NY), Alma Adams (D-NC), Andre Carson (D-IN), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Seth Magaziner (D-RI), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

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.

“APLU applauds Senators Hirono, Reed, and Whitehouse, Ranking Member Scott, and Representative Pocan for their leadership on Double Pell. This legislation to substantially boost Pell, index it to inflation, and expand eligibility would help millions more students. Pell Grants are critical to helping students afford and complete a life-changing college education while strengthening the nation’s workforce to compete globally,” said Mark Becker, President of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

“We’re proud to endorse the PGPEA, an important step forward in the fight to ensure equitable and affordable access to higher education for all students. Progress has been made in the past fifty years in overcoming discriminatory barriers and opening doors to students, but the rapidly increasing cost of college and high levels of student debt are curtailing access for many students. While the Pell grant remains an important aid for low-income students, inflation has eroded its value. The enhancements proposed in this bill will help guarantee that all students can access higher education--invaluable for building prosperity; advancing social, racial, and economic justice; strengthening democracy and civil society; and fostering knowledge and innovation,” said the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). 

“CLASP firmly believes in the transformative power of education as a pathway to economic mobility and social equity. The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act is a critical step toward ensuring that all students, regardless of their financial background, can access and complete higher education. By doubling the maximum Pell Grant award, shifting the Pell Grant program to fully mandatory funding, and allowing Dreamers to access federal financial aid, this legislation addresses the urgent needs of individuals with low incomes and communities of color. We wholeheartedly support this Act and urge lawmakers to prioritize its passage, as it represents a significant investment in our nation's future,” said India Heckstall, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Law & Social Policy.

“Ed Trust is proud to support the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act, a transformative proposal to enhance the accessibility and affordability of higher education for millions of low-income students and students of color across the United States. By increasing the maximum Pell award, ensuring the grants keep pace with inflation, and expanding eligibility to undocumented students, this act addresses the growing financial barriers that impede educational attainment. Supporting this act is essential for fostering educational equity and ultimately ensuring that higher education remains a viable pathway to upward mobility for all Americans,” said Wil Del Pilar, Senior Vice President of EdTrust.

“The Pell Grant is the cornerstone of federal financial aid, but the only way we can ensure its long-term survival is to treat it just like other permanent, or ‘mandatory’ programs that aren’t subject to the whims of a tumultuous annual appropriations process,” said Bryce McKibben, Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy at The Hope Center at Temple University. “The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act would do just that—ensuring this vital grant covers more students with financial need, grows with college costs, and will be around for generations to come. It is a vision for a better and more inclusive future.”

“The Pell Grant program is our nation’s foundational investment in college affordability, but the award has not kept pace with rising costs, and the program’s funding structure leaves it vulnerable to annual cuts,” said Michele Zampini, Senior Director of College Affordability at TICAS. “We strongly support the PGPEA, which not only doubles the maximum Pell award to make college far more affordable for millions of low- and moderate-income students but expands, protects, and strengthens the program for years to come.”

“Staggering tuition costs, state disinvestment and the diminished purchasing power of the Pell Grant have made higher education increasingly unattainable—stifling the dreams of a generation and stymieing economic growth. The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act is a bold solution that will double the Pell Grant, make sure the award keeps up with inflation, restore additional semesters of eligibility, and relieve the annual budgetary pressures with mandatory funding. This act is a critical investment in the future of our country, and it is not one that can wait. I urge Congress to quickly adopt these important improvements to the Pell Grant program,” said Randi Weingarten, AFT President.

“SHEEO is proud to endorse the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act,” said Rob Anderson, SHEEO President. “Pell Grants remain the cornerstone federal program for college affordability, and this legislation will revitalize and expand Pell to make college more affordable for students in the years ahead. We urge Congress to take up and pass this important bill without delay.”

“The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act takes critical and long overdue steps to strengthen and stabilize the Pell Grant, restore its purchasing power to better meet student need today and into the future, and ensure that Pell can truly deliver on its promise of making college dreams accessible and affordable,” said Michelle Dimino, Director of Education at Third Way. “Third Way applauds Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) for championing this important legislation to invest in student success for generations to come.”

“Pell Grants are life-changing, opening doors for students to pursue their academic and career goals without the burden of excessive debt. Higher education associations, organizations, and advocacy groups have long advocated for doubling the maximum Federal Pell Grant award; this is an essential step in ensuring students from low- and moderate-income communities can access a more affordable college education. Furthermore, expanding Pell Grant eligibility to DACA recipients is a critical investment in the future of young adults and their well-being. Young Invincibles is proud to endorse the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act and continue to advocate for a debt-free path to higher education,” said Satra D. Taylor, Director of Higher Education and Workforce Policy and Advocacy at Young Invicibles.

“APIA Scholars supports the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2024 as a crucial step toward ensuring educational accessibility and equity for all students, particularly those from underserved communities. The cost of higher education remains a top barrier preventing students from enrolling in college and a significant factor in why currently enrolled students drop out. APIA Scholars’ data disaggregation work has further shown that many Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) students rely heavily on the Pell Grant to pursue higher education,” said Dr. Noël S. Harmon, President and Executive Director, APIA Scholars. “Preservation and expansion of the Pell Grant strengthens a lifeline for many underserved AANHPI students and reaffirms our commitment to breaking down financial barriers and empowering AANHPI students who are in need across the nation. Especially now, we believe that an expansion of the Pell Grant program is critical given stagnant completion rates across the country due to the lingering impact of the pandemic. We believe in the transformative power of education and bolstering the Pell Grant program represents a pivotal move toward making higher education accessible and achievable for all.”

“Pell Grants are a much-needed lifeline for students and workers pursing a postsecondary education,” said Karishma Merchant, Associate Vice President of Policy & Advocacy at JFF. “The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act would help modernize the Pell Grant program by expanding the maximum grant award, broadening access to part-time students and Dreamers, and helping streamline eligibility across federal benefit programs. These are critical steps in supporting postsecondary affordability and ensuring more individuals can obtain a postsecondary credential and ultimately good jobs.”

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