March 23, 2023

Casten, Lee Introduce Pell Grant Sustainability Act to Ensure Federal Aid Keeps Up with Inflation

March 23rd, 2022 (Washington, D.C.) - Today, Congressman Sean Casten (IL-06) and Congresswoman Susie Lee (NV-03) introduced the Pell Grant Sustainability Act to help students access the resources they need to attend college by indexing the Pell Grant to inflation. This vital step will ensure the Pell Grant’s value keeps pace with the rising costs associated with attending college. 

Pell Grants make it possible for more than 6 million Americans annually to attend college. However, the purchasing power of the Federal Pell Grant has been in rapid decline. In the academic year 1974-1975, the total maximum Federal Pell Grant covered more than 80% of base educational costs at public 4-year institutions of higher education. By the academic year 2020-2021, the maximum Pell Grant covered less than 30% of those costs.

"With college tuition skyrocketing and working families' wages stagnating, it's becoming nearly impossible for many students to pursue higher education," said Rep. Casten. "Our Pell Grant system has made major inroads to help Americans of all backgrounds earn their degrees, but this success will not be sustained if the value of these grants continues to diminish as costs rise. I'm proud to introduce the Pell Grant Sustainability Act with Congresswoman Lee to ensure these grants continue to open doors to education for generations to come."

“I was fortunate to have a Pell Grant when I went to college, but as the cost of higher education surges, these grants now cover the smallest share of tuition ever – it's time for Pell Grants to catch up,” said Congresswoman Susie Lee. “My career has been dedicated to improving education outcomes for our most at-risk students, so I know that rising education costs are forcing students to take on crippling debt or abandon their education altogether. As a lifelong education advocate, I’m proud to re-introduce the Pell Grant Sustainability Act with Congressman Casten, so Pell Grants can get back to doing what they were intended to do – making the dream of affordable higher education a reality for every American.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said “College costs are totally out of reach for many Americans. And the debt from student loans, the tool most students avail themselves of to continue their education, is pauperizing an entire generation. If we are truly committed to the American dream, then federal leaders must try to help make higher education affordable and accessible to all. Rep. Casten’s Pell Grant Sustainability Act will help to address this by making sure that the maximum Pell Grant award increases at least as much as inflation does each year. We support this commonsense solution and look forward to working with Congress and the Biden administration to relieve the crushing burden of student loan debt for all students.”

“The Pell Grant is truly the foundation of a student’s financial aid package, providing critical support for nearly 21,500 students across our three universities,” said Nick Jones, Executive Vice President and Vice President for Academic Affairs for the U of I System. “It’s important that the Pell Grant program continues to provide equitable access to postsecondary education, and I applaud Congressman Casten’s efforts to ensure that the Pell Grant maintains its purchasing power over time.”

With Pell Grants becoming less valuable each year, students who depend on them are left struggling to afford tuition, requiring them to either take on enormous amounts of debt or forgo their pursuit of higher education altogether.

The Pell Grant Sustainability Act is endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, American Association of Colleges and Universities, National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, The Institute for College Access and Success, National College Attainment Network, Institute for Higher Education Policy, and the National Association for College Admission Counseling. 

A letter from supporting organizations can be found here. 

Original cosponsors: Rep. Seth Moulton, Rep. Colin Allred, Rep. Bennie Thompson, Rep. Slyvia Garcia, Rep. Scott Peters, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Rep. Dan Kildee, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Jill Tokuda, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, Rep. David Trone, Rep. David Ciciline, Rep. Alma Adams, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Rep. Terri Sewell, Rep. Raja Krisnamoorthi, Rep. Sara Jacobs, Rep. Kim Schrier.