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Garamendi Leads Bicameral Letter to Congressional Leadership Calling for Increased Pell Grant Funding in the “Build Back Better Act”

November 2, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) led a letter with 80 members of the United States House of Representatives and Senate to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer requesting that an expansion of the Pell Grant Program be included in the final version of the “Build Back Better Act.” The letter is linked here and included below.

Since 1972, the federal Pell Grant Program has provided critical financial support to help low-income students to pay for higher education. But over time, the value of federal Pell Grants has greatly eroded and failed to keep up with the increased costs of pursuing a higher education. As costs continue to mount in the face of a stagnant level of support under the Pell Grant Program, students from across the country and all segments of higher education have made one thing clear: The current Pell Grant maximum award does not go far enough in supporting low-income students’ academic success and their basic needs. Many of these students are taking on significant and unstainable levels of student debt while working multiple jobs to make ends meet while pursuing their higher education. These same students will fall behind academically or go without food or housing if Congress fails to increase the maximum award.

“Congress must make a substantial investment in the “Build Back Better Act” to help the nearly 7 million Pell Grant recipients across the country: students who are low-income, as well as homeless and former foster youth for whom the pandemic has exacerbated existing basic needs insecurities. The reconciliation package must also extend the Pell Grant program to the over 450,000 DACA recipients who are currently attending institutions of higher education across the country. Enabling these promising students to take advantage of federal student aid resources ensures they can complete their studies and bring new skills and expertise to their burgeoning careers,” the signatories said in the letter.

The text of the letter is included below:

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer:

As you work to advance President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda in a final budget reconciliation package, we urge you to preserve the investments in and expansion of the Pell Grant Program. Low-income students from across the nation—whether enrolled in community colleges or four-year public and private institutions of higher education—will benefit from increased funding for the Pell Grant.

We were pleased that the “Build Back Better Act” reported by the House Committee on Education and Labor in early September supported the President’s call for expanded Pell Grants, including making students who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients from low-income families eligible to use Pell Grants to pay for their higher education. We strongly support these forward-looking investments in our nation’s next generation of leaders.

Since 1972, the federal Pell Grant Program has provided critical financial support for low-income students to pay for higher education. But over time, the value of federal Pell Grants has greatly eroded. As it stands, the combination of state aid and the federal Pell Grant covers the tuition and fees at many of our nation’s public higher education institutions for the majority of the lowest-income students. It is the rapidly increasing additional costs of pursuing higher education, including learning materials and cost-of-living expenses, that imperils those students’ ability to afford a degree.

As costs continue to mount in the face of a stagnant level of financial support under the Pell Grant Program, students from across the country and all segments of higher education have made one thing clear: The current Pell Grant maximum award does not go far enough in supporting low-income students’ academic success and their basic needs. Many of these students are taking on significant and unsustainable levels of student debt and working multiple jobs to make ends meet while pursuing their higher education. These same students will fall behind academically or go without food or housing if Congress fails to increase the maximum award.

Congress must make a substantial investment in the “Build Back Better Act” to help the nearly 7 million Pell Grant recipients across the country: students who are low-income, as well as homeless and former foster youth for whom the pandemic has exacerbated existing basic needs insecurities. The reconciliation package must also extend the Pell Grant program to the over 450,000 DACA recipients who are currently attending institutions of higher education across the country. Enabling these promising students to take advantage of federal student aid resources ensures they can complete their studies and bring new skills and expertise to their burgeoning careers.

Congress has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make an immediate and meaningful investment in the Pell Grant Program, supporting generations of hardworking, low-income students who deserve—and need—a leg up as they pursue higher education. We urge you to make this critically important investment with budget reconciliation, fulfilling the Pell Grant expansion called for in the President’s Build Back Better Agenda.

Thank you for your leadership and consideration of our request.

Sincerely,

Representative John Garamendi (CA)

Representative Karen Bass (CA)

Representative Sanford Bishop (GA)

Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR)

Representative Suzanne Bonamici (OR)

Representative Brendan Boyle (PA)

Representative Anthony Brown (MD)

Representative Julia Brownley (CA)

Representative Tony Cárdenas (CA)

Representative André Carson (IN)

Representative Sean Casten (IL)

Representative David Cicilline (RI)

Representative Yvette Clarke (NY)

Representative Emanuel Cleaver (MO)

Representative Steve Cohen (TN)

Representative Gerald Connolly (VA)

Representative Jim Cooper (TN)

Representative Lou Correa (CA)

Representative Jim Costa (CA)

Representative Angie Craig (MN)

Representative Danny Davis (IL)

Representative Madeleine Dean (PA)

Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA)

Representative Adriano Espaillat (NY)

Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA)

Representative Ruben Gallego (AZ)

Representative Jesús García (IL)

Representative Sylvia Garcia (TX)

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)

Representative Jimmy Gomez (CA)

Representative Josh Gottheimer (NJ)

Representative Raúl Grijalva (AZ)

Representative Johana Hayes (CT)

Representative Marcy Kaptur (OH

Representative Ro Khanna (CA)

Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL)

Representative Ann McLane Kuster (NH)

Representative James Langevin (RI)

Representative John Larson (CT)

Representative Barbara Lee (CA)

Representative Andy Levin (MI)

Representative Mike Levin (CA)

Representative Ted Lieu (CA)

Representative Zoe Lofgren (CA)

Representative Alan Lowenthal (CA)

Representative Stephen Lynch (MA)

Representative Carolyn Maloney (NY)

Representative Kathy Manning (NC)

Representative Doris Matsui (CA)

Representative Jerry McNerney (CA)

Representative Grace Meng (NY)

Representative Gwen Moore (WI)

Representative Jerrold Nadler (NY)

Representative Grace Napolitano (CA)

Senator Alex Padilla (CA)

Representative Jimmy Panetta (CA)

Representative Chris Pappas (NH)

Representative Mike Quigley (IL)

Representative Jamie Raskin (MD)

Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA)

Representative Bobby Rush (IL)

Representative Michael San Nicolas (GU)

Representative Janice Schakowsky (IL)

Representative Adam Smith (WA)

Representative Melanie Stansbury (NM)

Representative Marilyn Strickland (WA)

Representative Thomas Suozzi (NY)

Representative Eric Swalwell (CA)

Representative Mark Takano (CA)

Representative Bennie Thompson (MS)

Representative Mike Thompson (CA)

Representative Paul Tonko (NY)

Representative Ritchie Torres (NY)

Senator Chris Van Hollen (MD)

Representative Juan Vargas (CA)

Representative Nydia Velázquez (NY)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA)

Representative Nikema Williams (GA)

Representative Frederica Wilson (FL)

Senator Ron Wyden (OR)

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