Proposed House Spending Bill Would Cut Billions from Pell Grant Program

The needs-based grant helps low-income students pay for college

Proposed House Spending Bill Would Cut Billions from Pell Grant Program
Image: Pixabay
July 14, 2017

A House bill scheduled for discussion today proposes to cut billions from a grant program that helps low-income students pay for college.

Cuts and Freezes

Consumerist writes that the needs-based Federal Pell Grant program could lose $3.3 billion of the total $8.5 billion Pell surplus under the bill, which would set funding levels for many programs under the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and related agencies.

The bill would also freeze the maximum amount for Pell Grants at $5,920.

Equal Access to College Education

Consumer advocates oppose the cuts.

"The Pell Grant is our nation's most effective investment for ensuring equitable access to higher education, and plays a critical role in reducing the already high debt burden for low- and middle income students," stated Jessica Thompson, policy and research director at the Institute for College Access & Success (ICAS). "These proposals to undermine the Pell Grant are grossly out of step with the goal of growing a robust, educated, and competitive workforce."

The Dirty Details

Thompson estimates that the proposed cut is worth the same amount of the average Pell Grant for almost 900,000 students—more than the number of students who received the Grant and are currently attending college in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Iowa combined.

She also notes that freezing the award amounts of the Pell Grant would decrease their value by at least $165 due to the fact that the amounts will no longer be keeping up with inflation and the rising costs of higher education.

Differing Opinions

"The current maximum Pell Grant covers the lowest share of college costs in over forty years," Thompson stated, "and Pell Grant recipients are already more likely to borrow and have to borrow much more than their higher income peers to complete college."

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen told Consumerist that the bill "reflects Republican priorities" by reducing spending and instead focusing on the "programs our people need the most."