Education

Experts say that doubling the maximum Pell grant is necessary, but can it be achieved?

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The idea of ​​doubling the highest Pell Grant award has become popular and has won the support of hundreds of organizations and individuals, all the way to President Biden. According to advocates and experts, although the policy proposal seemed like a pie in the sky ten years ago, it has become less important now.

“There is a momentum that we have never seen before,” said Michelle Streeter, deputy director of policy and advocacy at the Institute for College Admissions and Success. “This is the first time we have seen the bicameral bill of the government and committee leadership actually require doubling. This is not even what I expected.”

The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based assistance without reimbursement to low- and middle-income students studying for a two- or four-year higher education degree. However, the amount of bursaries available to students has not kept up with rising university costs-the maximum amount of Pell bursaries once covered nearly 80% of university fees, but now it only covers less than one-third.

“Pell recipients have a higher student debt burden than their peers, and the borrowing rate is twice that of non-Pell recipients-this is because it covers the lowest cost share in the history of the program, but it has not kept up with college expenses. “Streeter said.

More than 1,200 organizations including nearly 900 universities have He expressed support Double the maximum award amount, that is, the maximum award amount for the 2021-22 award year is US$6,495. The Democrats in Congress hope to fulfill their demands. Last week, Democratic Senators Mazie Hirono and Patty Murray of Washington, and Democrats Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Virginia State Bobby Scott (Bobby Scott), Introduction This Pell Grant Protection and Expansion Act of 2021, Which will increase the maximum Pell grant to $13,000 in the 2027-28 award year and link it to the inflation index for each subsequent award year.

21 senators and 68 representatives co-sponsored the bill-all Democrats. Despite this, Beth Akers, a resident scholar of the American Enterprise Institute, has advised policy makers on rights, but the Pell grant program has traditionally been bipartisan and doubled the grant. May get Republican support. Think of Pell Grants as maintenance based on the credential model.

“I’m conservative in this debate, so I should say,’No more spending, no more spending,'” Akers said. “But in fact, I think this is a reasonable request that we expand Pell at this point in time. If Republicans are going to accept anything the Democrats want, then think this might be one of them. reasonable.”

Akers said that the Democratic Party has another advantage, that is, policy dialogue has shifted further to the left, and doubling the Pell grant does not seem like a radical idea—if it was proposed seven or eight years ago, it might be. Will be different. But the Democrats may not even need the support of the Republicans to complete it. This may be achieved through budget coordination, a procedural measure in the Senate that allows budget measures to bypass the 60-vote threshold required to obstruct bills and end debates and pass legislation.

Streeter and Michelle Dimino, senior policy consultants for education at Third Way, said that supporters believe that double Pell grants are only part of a larger university affordability problem. They believe that double tuition fees should be combined with other affordability measures.

“Double Pell may be a free university down payment because it provides additional student funding that can offset or increase the cost of other projects,” Dimino said.

But it may not be necessary to do both, especially in the context of free community colleges, As proposed The Biden administration as part of him American Family PlanPhilip Levine, a non-resident researcher at the Brookings Institution and a professor of economics at Wellesley College, said that since 55% of community college students also receive Pell grants, providing free community colleges and doubling the Pell grants are basically okay Achieve the same goal.

“If you offer free community colleges to people who have already received Pell grants, doubling the Pell grants will give them free community colleges,” Levine said. “These are two different ways of being free. There are some additional students who will benefit from the free university, but they will not double the Pell grant. But from the overall picture, it is not that much.”

Levine said that there is no real reason to do both at the same time, because it would be a very generous plan, beyond what is necessary to make the university affordable. This is something that needs to be considered, because doubling the Pell grant will be costly.

This will cost a little more than twice what the federal government currently spends on the program, Estimated to be approximately US$30 billion in fiscal 2021, Because all recipients may receive twice the amount of assistance, and additional recipients will be added, either because they did not go to college in the first place, or because they will be involved in the new eligibility threshold, Levine Say. Akers pointed out that Democrats must find a way to pay for all these proposals.

However, Streeter said that doubling the price of Pell is expensive, but it should be considered an investment. This is a very targeted plan, Two-thirds of Pell grant recipients From families with an annual income of less than $30,000 and students of color-black, Hispanic, Asian, and mixed-race students- On average, more dollars in aid than white students.

“The rewards—even from a purely economic point of view, but also from a social point of view—are huge,” Streeter said. “This is a front-end investment in the economy, students, poverty alleviation and economic mobility.”

Doubling the Pell grant is not something that has to be done in one go-and it can’t be the case.For example, Biden’s Budget proposal Asked to increase the maximum bonus by 400 US dollars, and his American family plan called for an increase of 1,400 US dollars, which is called the “down payment” to double the bonus.

“Fortunately, this is not an all-or-nothing situation,” Dimino said. “We can increase Pell now, and we can increase it again in the next Congress.”

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