Legislation Would Give Access to More Financial Aid

Friday, Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Susan W. Brooks (IN-05) introduced the Pell Plus Act of 2019, new legislation to promote college completion by establishing partnerships between colleges and universities to provide a Pell Grant bonus to low-income students in their third and fourth years on a path to on-time graduation.

“Education is the door to economic opportunity, and for a lot of families, financial aid programs are the key to that door. Pell Grants are particularly important for middle class families, but even with that vital support, students and their families often end up saddled with debt. The Pell Plus program that we’re proposing will help students complete their college degree on-time, provide more financial aid, and lower their debt burden,” said Rep. Kilmer. “This is a win for students, a win for educational institutions, and a win for local employers who are hungry for workers.”

“One of the most challenging factors students today must consider when deciding whether or not to pursue higher education is the financial burden of enrollment,” stated Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks (IN-05). “The Pell Plus Act provides students flexibility to choose a college path that best suits their needs all while ensuring students can graduate with the least amount of debt possible. I am proud to lead this bipartisan legislation because with this bill, we can help improve graduation rates and reduce the increasing amount of student debt in our country.”

“I couldn’t be more pleased with Rep. Kilmer’s Pell Plus proposal,” Pacific Lutheran University president Allan Belton said. “Access for all to a quality undergraduate education is so important — and supporting those dedicated students working to complete their bachelor’s degrees within four years, reducing borrowing, sets them up for a lifetime of success as they prepare to enter the workforce. Observing the impact a similar program, 253 PLU Bound, has had on our own campus shows that students stay on track and perform better academically when getting that support — vital steps toward leveling the higher education playing field for those from every background.”

“Rep. Kilmer’s Pell Plus legislation will increase access to the lifelong benefits of higher education for students who depend upon Pell Grants,” said Isiaah Crawford, president of the University of Puget Sound. “By providing a Pell Grant bonus to low-income students in their third and fourth years of college, we can help them complete their degrees on time and with less financial burden. That means more students will achieve their dreams of a college degree and all the transformational opportunities higher education brings. We at the University of Puget Sound are fully engaged in our efforts to cultivate inclusive excellence and educational equality, and this partnership with the federal government would significantly impact our students, who in turn will add social and economic value to the communities in which they live, learn, and work.”

John McVay, president of Walla Walla University and chair of the Independent Colleges of Washington Board of Directors, said: “We know that higher education offers individuals across the state of Washington and the nation the key to economic opportunity and to a life filled with good outcomes, from better health to greater civic engagement. Rep. Kilmer’s legislation would make it possible for students who depend upon Pell Grants to stay on track for their degree in four years. It is the definition of a win-win and it is our hope that Congress will enact the plan.”

“Washington companies look for the skills that a four-year liberal arts education delivers: the ability to work in a team, problem-solving skills, written and verbal communication skills and a strong work ethic. With this Pell Plus legislation, the federal government would give colleges and universities a tool to encourage students to complete their baccalaureate degrees. By providing a Pell Grant bonus to low-income students in their third and fourth years who are on a path to on-time completion, we can help more students cross the finish line,” said Terri Standish-Kuon, president and CEO of Independent Colleges of Washington. “This innovative proposal will help us ensure the pipeline of educated and skilled students for the robust and competitive workforce that is key to powering our state’s economy. We look forward to working with Rep. Kilmer and Rep. Brooks to encourage Congress to adopt this legislation.”

“From her earliest days in public service, Congresswoman Susan Brooks has always been a creative problem solver. She understands how legislation can make a difference in the lives of our everyday Americans. Her support of Pell Plus is another example of her thoughtful and positive way of affecting change,” said David W. Wantz, president, Independent Colleges of Indiana, Inc. “The 30 Independent Colleges of Indiana are grateful to Congresswoman Brooks’ endorsement and support of Pell Plus. Ninety percent of students attending private colleges in Indiana receive some sort of financial aid, the majority coming from the institutions themselves. Sixty percent of the students complete their college degrees in four years. So, with Pell Plus we will be able to incentivize even more students to finish their degrees and to get into the workforce or go on for advanced degrees. This is good news for taxpayers because it means a more efficient use of Pell dollars.”

“America’s independent colleges and universities applaud Reps. Derek Kilmer and Susan Brooks for their constructive approach to addressing college affordability through the innovative Pell Plus Act of 2019,” said Barbara K, Mistick, D.M., president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. “The federal student aid programs have always targeted the needs of low- and middle-income students and families, and this legislation extends that support. We wholeheartedly support the Pell Plus Act of 2020.”

The Pell Plus Act of 2019 would help promote college completion by establishing a partnership with colleges and universities to provide a Pell Grant bonus to low-income students in their third and fourth years who are on a path to on-time graduation. This completion goal could be accomplished by assuring that on-time graduates receive the same amount of Pell Grant assistance as those who take six academic years to earn a degree.

Pell Plus has two major components:

(1) Third- and fourth-year students who are on track to graduate in four years would be given access to the same total Pell Grant amounts that are currently made available only to those who take six years to complete.

(2) Bonus amounts would be matched dollar-for-dollar by participating colleges and universities.

The net effect of this proposal would be to triple the amount of Pell Grant assistance during the final two years of study for students who are on track to on-time completion. Using the 2019-2020 academic year as a baseline, the nation’s lowest income students would receive an annual grant of $18,585 to attend the college of their choice.

The Pell Plus Act of 2019 encourages on-time college completion, reduced student debt loads, and institutional “skin in the game,” while continuing the federal commitment to investing in the nation’s neediest students.

The following organizations have announced their support for the legislation:

Alabama Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities

Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges

Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts

Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio

Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania

Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island

Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design

Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges & Universities

Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities

Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities

Association of Vermont Independent Colleges (AVIC)

College Visions

Conference for Mercy Higher Education

Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area

Council of Independent Colleges

CT Conference of Independent Colleges

Georgia Independent College Association

Independent Colleges and Universities of Missouri

Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, Inc. (ICUT)

Independent Colleges of Indiana

Independent Colleges of Washington

Kansas Independent College Association

Maryland Independent College & University Association

Michigan Independent Colleges & Universities

Minnesota Private College Council

National Association for College Admission Counseling

National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities

NYS Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities

South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities

Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association

Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

Yes We Must Coalition