News from Washington, D.C.
HOUSE PASSES PELL GRANT FAIRNESS LEGISLATION The U.S. House of Representatives
approved legislation today that would repeal a rule that unfairly reduces
Pell Grant scholarship aid for thousands of low-income college students who
attend low-cost colleges and universities. The Pell Grant Equity Act, H.R.
990, was introduced by Reps.
George Miller (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee,
and Howard 'Buck' McKeon (R-CA), the Committee's Senior Republican.
"No student should be shortchanged of the financial aid they need to
get a college degree," said Miller. "This legislation will ensure
that students get the help they need to cover tuition and other basic – but
substantial – costs. This is another step we are taking to expand need-based
aid and make college more affordable – a core element of strengthening
our nation's middle class."
"No student should be penalized simply because of his or her choice
of where to get an education," McKeon noted. "As we work to expand
college access and hold institutions more accountable for their role in the
college costs crisis, punishing students who attend low cost schools is neither
fair nor rational. I'm pleased we were able to work in a bipartisan way to
reform this outdated federal rule."
Under current law, a provision called "tuition sensitivity" limits
the amount of Pell Grant aid eligible students receive annually based on
their tuition costs – keeping students who otherwise qualify for a
maximum Pell Grant scholarship from receiving the full sum.
While the Pell Grant scholarship can cover a student's cost of attendance,
which is the total sum of tuition and fees as well as books, supplies, transportation,
room and board and miscellaneous personal expenses, tuition sensitivity is
based on a premise that tuition is the major educational expense facing students,
and should therefore determine grant need.
In reality, for most students, these related education and living expenses
often present the greatest financial barriers to attending college. At California's
community colleges, where tuition was recently reduced, the tuition sensitivity
rule hits students especially hard. The Pell Grant Equity Act would eliminate
this provision and restore fairness to the Pell Grant award process – boosting
need-based aid for students in the most financial need.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the Pell Grant Equity Act
would benefit approximately 96,000 students in the 2007-2008 academic year,
and would provide an average Pell Grant scholarship increase of $108 per
student. The bill will provide a one-year fix in order to offer affected
students immediate relief. Miller and McKeon said today that the fix will
be made permanent when the Education and Labor Committee reauthorizes the
Higher Education Act. More than 5 million undergraduate students received
a Pell Grant scholarship in FY 2006. Of these recipients, more than 74 percent
have incomes below $30,000.
For more information on the Pell Grant Equity Act, go to http://edlabor.house.gov/publications/PellGrantEquityActof2007onepager.pdf