Press Release

Letter from 309 Organizations to Congressional Leadership: “Index Pell Grants to Inflation Indefinitely”

Publication date: Jul 25, 2017

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Minority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Download the Letter

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi:

Absent Congressional action, the maximum Pell Grant award will no longer adjust with inflation after this upcoming school year. As costs for students continue to rise, ending the annual inflation adjustment is — in real terms — a cut to the value of the Pell Grant. As institutions of higher education and organizations that support and advocate for students, we urge you to support our nation’s students by continuing the annual indexation of Pell Grants to inflation.

Pell Grants are the foundation of our national investment in higher education, giving low-income students the opportunity to go to and graduate from college and pursue careers that increasingly require a postsecondary education. This year, Pell Grants will help over 7.5 million students — including one-third of all White students, two-thirds of all Black students, and half of all Latino students — continue their education after high school1.

But right now, the maximum Pell Grant covers less than 30 percent of the average cost of attendance at a public, four-year institution — resulting in its lowest purchasing power in over 40 years2. For the last five years, indexation has played a critical role in preventing further decline of the historically low purchasing power of the current Pell Grant. If Congress fails to continue the adjustment, Pell students would see the buying power of their awards reduced drastically. In 10 years, with the award frozen at its current amount, the grant will cover only one-fifth of college costs3.

This decreased buying power exacerbates already significant financial barriers for students. In fact, after grant funding from all sources is considered, low-income students still have to find a way to finance, on average, the equivalent of three-quarters of their family income to cover their net college costs — leading them to disproportionate levels of debt4. Pell Grant students are already more than twice as likely to have student loans. Nine in 10 Pell Grant recipients graduate from four-year colleges with student debt, and their average debt is nearly $5,000 more than their higher income peers5. In this economy where postsecondary credentials are critical for pursuing a career, these financial barriers significantly limit social mobility and the availability of a skilled workforce; and we cannot afford to let the obstacles become even greater.

Congress made an important investment in fiscal year 2017 by restoring access to Pell Grants year-round. But that step alone is not enough. Without action to maintain the inflation adjustment, students will face a decline in their aid. We urge you to continue the annual indexation for Pell Grants with the same determination and bipartisan support you showed for restoring year-round Pell.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Sincerely,

10,000 Degrees Governors State University Seattle University
Achieving the Dream Grand Rapids Community College Slippery Rock University
Alabama Possible HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College Smith College
Amarillo College Hartnell College  Sonoma State University
American Association of University Women (AAUW) Heritage University South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities
American Student Assistance Higher Ed, Not Debt Southern Adventist University
Arizona State University Higher Education Loan Coalition Southern Education Foundation
Arkansas State University – Beebe Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Southern Illinois University System
Arkansas State University – Jonesboro Hostos Community College, CUNY Southern University Law Center
Arkansas State University – Mountain Home Houston Baptist University Southwest Texas Junior College
Arkansas State University – Newport Humboldt State University St. Edward’s University
Arkansas State University Mid-South Illinois College Access Network St. Louis Graduates
Arkansas State University System iMentor St. Louis Regional Chamber
Arkansas Tech University Imperial Community College District St. Philip’s College
Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Indian River State College State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO)
Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities Indiana University Northwest State University of New York at Fredonia
Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) State University of New York at Oneonta
Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania Inter American University of Puerto Rico State University of New York The College at Brockport
Baruch College of the City University of New York James Madison University Stella and Charles Guttman Community College
Benedict College Johnson University Student Veterans of America
Berkshire Community College Joliet Junior College Tennessee College Access and Success Network
Bethel University Kansas Independent College Association Tennessee Higher Education Commission
Bottom Line Kentucky Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association
Brazosport College Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority Texas A&M International University
Bronx Community College, CUNY Kingsborough Community College  Texas State University
Brooklyn College Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine Texas Tech University
Broward College Lamar Institute of Technology Texas Wesleyan University
Bucknell University Lamar State College – Orange The Active Advocacy Coalition
Buffalo State College Lamar University  The California State University
Bunker Hill Community College Lane College The City College of New York (CUNY)
Butler County (PA) Community College League of United Latin American Citizens The Commit! Partnership
Cabrini University Learning for Life at Rhode Island College The Education Trust
California Polytechnic State University Lehigh Carbon Community College The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS)
California State University, Chico Lehman College, CUNY The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis
California State University, Dominguez Hills Let’s Get Ready The State University of New York
California State University, East Bay Lincoln Memorial University The Texas State University System
California State University, Fresno Lincoln University of Pennsylvania The University of Memphis
California State University, Fullerton Lorain County Community College The University of New Mexico
California State University, Long Beach Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce  Third Way
California State University, Los Angeles Luzerne County Community College Thurgood Marshall College Fund
California State University, Monterey Bay Macaulay Honors College of CUNY Towson University
California State University, Northridge Martin Methodist College Trinity Washington University
California State University, Sacramento Maryland Independent College & University Association Troy University
California State University, San Bernardino Mercy College Tulsa Community College
California State University, San Marcos Metropolitan State University U.S. PIRG
California State University, Stanislaus Metropolitan State University of Denver uAspire
Cameron University Miami Dade College UNC Scholars’ Latino Initiative
Campaign for College Opportunity Michigan Association of State Universities UNCF
Capital Community College Michigan College Access Network University of California
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) Middlesex Community College University of California, Davis
Center for Urban Education, University of Southern California Mississippi Valley State University University of California, Irvine
Cerritos College Montgomery College University of California, Riverside
Chaffey College Moraine Valley Community College University of California, Santa Cruz
Chapman University Morgan State University University of Delaware
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science Mott Community College University of Hawaii
Chicago Urban League Mountain Empire Community College University of Houston
Christian Brothers University NAACP University of Illinois at Chicago
Cleveland State University National “I Have A Dream” Foundation University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Clovis Community College National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) University of Maryland, Baltimore County
College Advising Corps National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities  University of Maryland, University College
College Beyond (New Orleans, LA) National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) University of Massachusetts
College Bound – St. Louis National Association of System Heads University of Massachusetts Amherst
College Forward National College Access Network University of Massachusetts Boston
College of Marin National Urban League University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
College of Staten Island, CUNY Nevada State College University of Massachusetts Lowell
College Possible New Jersey City University University of Missouri – Kansas City
College Success Foundation North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University University of Missouri System
CollegeTracks North Carolina Central University University of North Carolina Charlotte
Colorado State University North Shore Community College University of North Carolina Wilmington
Colorado State University – Pueblo Northampton Community College University of North Georgia
Colorado State University Global Campus Northeast Iowa Community College University of Northern Colorado
Colorado State University System Northeastern Illinois University University of Puget Sound
Community College of Allegheny County Northern Arizona College Resource Center University of Texas at Arlington
Community College of Beaver County Northern New Mexico College University of the Southwest
Community College of Rhode Island Northwest Missouri State University University of the Virgin Islands
Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area Northwest Vista College University of West Georgia
CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy Oakland University University of Wisconsin – Madison
CUNY School of Professional Studies Olympic College University of Wisconsin – Parkside
DC Prep: PrepNext One Wisconsin Institute University of Wisconsin – Platteville
De La Salle, Inc. OneGoal University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
Denver Scholarship Foundation Our Lady of the Lake University University of Wisconsin System
DePaul University Pennsylvania Highlands Community College University System of Maryland
Dillard University Philadelphia Futures Utah System of Higher Education
Dixie State University Phoenix College Valencia College
Donnelly College Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico Vanguard University of Southern California
East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM)  Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology
EDP University of Puerto Rico Queens College, CUNY Veterans Education Success
Fairleigh Dickinson University Queensborough Community College, CUNY Virginia Commonwealth University
Felician University Reading Area Community College Waco Foundation
First Generation College Bound, Inc. Renton Technical College Walla Walla Community College
Fisher College Riverside City College Watkins College of Art
Fisk University Rutgers University – Newark Wellesley College
Florida A&M University Saint Luke’s College of Health Sciences Western Michigan University
Florida Gulf Coast University Saint Martin’s University Western Oregon University
Francis Marion University Salem State University Western Texas College
Franklin & Marshall College Sam Houston State University Whittier College
Frostburg State University San Antonio College Whitworth University
Generation Progress San Diego State University Wilbur Wright College
Genesys Works Houston – Alumni Program San German Campus of Inter American University of Puerto Rico Wright State University
George Mason University San Joaquin Delta College Wyman
Georgia Gwinnet College San Jose City College Yes We Must Coalition
Georgia Independent College Association San Jose State University York College, CUNY
Goshen College San Juan Bautista School of Medicine Young Invincibles

  1. Congressional Budget Office (CBO), January 2017 baseline projections for the Pell Grant program, http://bit.ly/2mLy0nk, Table 2; and Ed Trust calculation NPSAS:12 using PowerStats.
  2. Ed Trust calculation using College Board’s Trends in College Pricing, https://trends.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/2016-trends-college-pricing-web_1.pdf, and U.S. Department of Education maximum Pell award figure, https://ed.gov/programs/fpg/index.html?exp=0.
  3. U.S. Department of Education, “New U.S. Department of Education Report Highlights Colleges Increasing Access and Supporting Strong Outcomes for Low-Income Students,” https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/new-us-department-education-report-highlights-colleges-increasing-access-and-supporting-strong-outcomes-low-income-students.
  4. Ed Trust calculation NPSAS:12 using PowerStats.
  5. Calculations by TICAS on data from the U.S. Department of Education, National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, 2011-12.

Back to Top

Related Content