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US Senator Hirono Reintroduces Bill to Double Pell Grant, Make College More Affordable

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US Sen. Mazie K. Hirono reintroduced legislation to increase Pell Grant awards to help make college more affordable. Courtesy Photo.

US Senator Mazie K. Hirono was part of a group of legislators who reintroduced the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act, legislation that would double the Pell award for college expenses, index the award to inflation, and make other changes to expand the award for working students and families.

The bill also makes Pell Grant funding fully mandatory to protect it from funding shortfalls, expands the program to include DREAMers, and restores lifetime eligibility for the program to 18 semesters, among other changes that will benefit students.

“Every year, Pell Grants make college more affordable for millions of students in the United States — including tens of thousands of students in Hawaiʻi,” Sen. Hirono said. “But over the last decade, the value of the Pell Grant has steadily declined — from covering nearly fourth-fifths of the cost of attendance at a public, four-year institution at its height, to less than one-third.”


Sen. Hirono reintroduced the bill with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), chairman of the House Education & Labor Committee.

“Students should never be forced to give up their higher education dreams because they can’t afford it — and this legislation will take a significant step in helping to make sure college is within reach for more students,” Sen. Murray said.

Senators Hirono and Murray, along with Rep. Scott and former Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), introduced a similar version of this legislation during the 115th Congress. Last year, several provisions from that bill were included in the year-end spending package, which restored Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals, students who have been defrauded, and students with drug-related offenses; raised the “auto-zero” threshold for the program; and increased the income protection allowance — improving the program for students.


In addition to Senators Hirono and Murray and Representatives Pocan and Scott, the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act is cosponsored by 70 plus legislators.

The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act bill text is available here. A bill summary is available here.

The following groups have endorsed the legislation: American Association of University Professors (AAUP), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), APIA Scholars, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), National Education Association (NEA), State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO), Student Debt Crisis, Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Association of Young Americans (AYA), The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), Third Way, Young Invincibles, College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR), Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), American Council on Education (ACE), JFF, PIRG, Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, National College Attainment Network (NCAN), Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), The Education Trust, UnidosUS, and the University of California System.



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