Make Pell a Priority to Preserve Access to Education: Statement from Dr. Karen A. Stout President and CEO, Achieving the Dream

As the United States continues to compete in today’s global economy, community colleges are leading the way to enable millions of students and workers, especially those who are underserved and underrepresented, to gain the valuable education and workforce training they need to meet the demands of today’s global economy. The Pell grant remains an indispensable investment in a better educated and upwardly economic mobile citizenry. 

As Congress deliberates on the FY 2018 budget, it is critical to maintain a watchful eye on actions relating to Pell. Reductions to the Pell surplus of up to $3.3 billion are on the target list among House appropriators. Without Congressional action, the annual inflation adjustment to the maximum Pell award will also end, contributing to the rising cost for students to attain an education beyond high school.  

It is time to make Pell a priority in order to preserve access now and for future generations.  Currently, 58 percent of students at Achieving the Dream network institutions receive Pell awards. As institutions continue to bolster student success efforts and implement guided pathways, any weakening of Pell could be a considerable setback for students on the path toward completion. We have made too much progress together to allow this to slow our momentum.

Congress took a significant step in the 2017 FY by restoring year-round Pell. However, we cannot be complacent. Currently three critical issues surrounding Pell should be top of the list as Congress moves forward with the 2018 budget: maintaining the basic Pell grant, sustaining the annual indexing for inflation, and keeping the surplus fully intact. Once these three critical issues are addressed in the budget, then expansion of Pell for short term training should be the next action. Short term training in high demand occupations is vital to economic growth.

A recent study by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) found that “each $1,000 of YRP grant funding per YRP-eligible student, the likelihood of summer enrollment among YRP-eligible students increases by 27 percentage points and the likelihood of associate degree completion increases by 2.2 percentage points, with these gains primarily benefitting adult students who enrolled at age 20 or above”. This study reinforces the importance and impact of Pell.

Achieving the Dream is among more than 300 colleges, universities, and organizations that signed a letter calling on Congress to continue the annual adjustment for inflation for Pell. 

We believe strongly that preserving access to higher education for all now, and in the future, is paramount to the country’s future economic success and should not be sacrificed for a short-term fix in the federal budget.

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