Low-Income Students Deserve a Real ‘CHANCE’ at Affordable College

Each year millions of Americans depend on Pell Grants to help make college affordable. Research has shown that need-based grant aid, like Pell Grants, increases college enrollment among low- and moderate-income students. But with college costs skyrocketing over the last three decades, Pell Grants have lost much of their purchasing power. In the 1980s, Pell Grants covered 77 percent of the cost of college at a four-year public college for low-income students. Today that share has dropped significantly to only 31 percent of the cost.

The high cost of college makes it unnecessarily difficult for many students to attend college without taking on undesirable loan debt. Moreover, loan debt is often difficult to pay back, and makes it hard for students to realize the economic mobility benefits of their education. Low-income students have a particularly hard challenge because they have to commit a much larger share of their annual family income — more than 70 percent — to cover college expenses. Students who are born into life at a financial disadvantage should not be priced out of higher education, the one thing that has been shown to have a positive effect on economic mobility.  

A bill recently introduced in Congress seeks to increase individual Pell Grant awards to make college more affordable for more Americans. The Middle Class “Creating Higher Education Affordability Necessary to Compete Economically” Act (or Middle Class CHANCE Act) would:

1. Increase the maximum Pell Grant award to $8,900

2. Restore year-round Pell Grants, and

3. Allow students to receive Pell Grant awards for 15 semesters instead of the current 12.

While tuition across the country continues to rise and states continue to disinvest in higher education, this legislation is a positive step toward ensuring that college is affordable for those students who bear the heaviest financial burden.  

I AM NOT A LOAN thanks Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), as well as Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), for introducing the bill in their respective chambers and looks forward to working with them and our other elected leaders to improve college affordability and access for all students.

Pell Grants are a cornerstone to restoring opportunity in our country. They enable the neediest among us to get the postsecondary education required to increase our earning potential and keep America competitive in the global economy. For many hardworking students, Pell Grants are the difference between going to college and going nowhere.

Help get the Middle Class CHANCE Act passed into law! Please sign a petition asking your member of Congress to support the bill