Scott, Hinojosa, Congressional Tri-Caucus Statement on Cuts to Pell Grants

WASHINGTONToday, Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03), Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15), and the Congressional Tri-Caucus—which is comprised of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC)— released the following statements regarding cuts to the Pell Grant program in the 2017 Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill:

Ranking Member Scott (VA-03) and Ranking Member Hinojosa (TX-15), Co-Chair of the CHC Education Taskforce: “Last week, we sent a letter to LHHS subcommittees warning against proposals that raid the appropriations presently allocated to the Pell Grant program to address other funding needs, and urging appropriators to increase the maximum Pell Grant. Today, we are disappointed to see that Senate LHHS appropriations bill balances other needs on the backs of low-income college students without doing anything to put additional dollars in their pockets each semester. While year-round Pell eligibility will allow students to use their financial aid more flexibly, students will also be exhausting their lifetime eligibility more quickly without seeing any new dollars to help pay for college. A $1.2 billion cut to Pell Grants out of a $7.8 billion surplus – without an increase to the maximum award – is too steep of a price to pay for the restoration of year-round eligibility.”

Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair: “I am saddened that the 2017 Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill cuts the Pell Grant program instead of increasing the maximum award. The flexibility provided by year-round Pell Grant eligibility is crucial to helping students earn a degree. But that increased eligibility is not enough when the current maximum Pell Grant is only $5,815, or just about one-third of the average cost of a public four-year college. The sleight of hand used to increase one piece of Pell Grants by cutting another will effectively limit access to education. As a former educator myself, I know just how transformative a higher education can be. I also know how imperative Pell Grants are. Beyond tuition, there are extra costs to college – like transportation, books, and supplies – that pose the greatest challenges. Even with financial aid, many students have to take time off to work and save. This is in part why only about 21% of low-income students receive their bachelor degree by age 24, while, for wealthier students, that number is about 99%. A cut to the Pell Grant program without an increase to the maximum award is a cut to opportunity for lower-income students, including Asian Pacific Americans and other students of color.”

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC-01), CBC Chair: “The decision today by the Republican Majority in the U.S. Senate to cut Pell Grant funding in the Senate LHHS appropriations bill impacts hundreds of thousands of students across the country that rely on federal government funding to obtain a higher education.  African American undergraduate students, especially those who are enrolled at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), are particularly hurt by cuts to Pell Grants as many of these students, along with their families, depend on federal support to cover college tuition.  Today’s decision is a setback for these students, families, and institutions of higher education across the country.”   


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