June 27, 2024

Wyden, Merkley Join Legislation to Expand Pell Grant Awards and Make Higher Education More Accessible

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced today they’ve co-sponsored 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 Preservation and Expansion Act would also make Pell Grant funding fully mandatory, expand the program to include DREAMers, and restore lifetime eligibility for the program to 18 semesters. The Pell Grant program is the cornerstone of federal financial aid for postsecondary education, serving more than 6 million undergraduate students.

“Sky-high college tuition leaves too many Americans and DREAMers jumping through financial hoops just to pursue an education,” Wyden said. “When the financial barrier for admission to higher education is lower, more students can seek new career opportunities and climb the socioeconomic ladder. For the millions of students on a Pell Grant, this legislation means they can get their degree without breaking the bank.”

“Every student in Oregon and America should be able to access higher education without the fear of being saddled with a lifetime of crushing debt,” Merkley said. “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.”

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the legislation is led by Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai’i) and cosponsored by U.S Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).  

In the House of Representatives, the legislation is sponsored by U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) and cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-Northern Marina Islands), Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Seth Magaziner (D-R.I.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act is endorsed by the 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.

The text of the legislation is here.