Senators Heinrich, Hirono Announce Introduction Of Bill To Increase Access To Pell Grants, Make College More Affordable

Legislation Puts Higher Education Within Reach for More Americans

U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii)introduced S.1998, the Middle Class Creating Higher Education Affordability Necessary to Compete Economically (CHANCE) Act, a bill to increase access to affordable post-secondary education for low- to moderate-income students. The bill would address the significant loss in value of Pell Grants by adjusting them for inflation, reinstate year-round Pell Grants, and increase the number of eligible semesters to 15.

“Pell Grants are the primary form of financial aid millions of students use to pay for tuition, giving them access to an education that might otherwise be out of reach,” said Sen. Heinrich. “As the cost of college has continued to skyrocket, this bill helps address the diminised purchasing power of Pell Grants, and ensures they remain a useful tool for students in New Mexico and across the country well into the future. The Middle Class CHANCE Act also makes it possible for students to continue their education year-round, providing flexibility and enabling them to join the workforce sooner.”

“As college tuition increases across the country, students and families are struggling to make ends meet,” said Sen. Hirono. “Unfortunately, the Pell Grant program has not grown at the same rate as rising college tuition. More than 23,000 Hawaii students rely on Pell Grants and those students deserve to know they can count on Pell Grants to help pay for college, regardless of their schedules, work, or family commitments. Investing in education is one of the best investments we can make to grow our middle class, and I’m proud to work with Senator Heinrich to help more students pursue their dreams.”

According to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association and the College Board, the burden of paying for college has shifted to students as tuition continues to increase and state funding continues to decrease. Nearly 9 million students across the country depend on Pell Grants to pay for school.

In New Mexico, nearly 60,000 students rely on Pell Grants to attend and complete college. Before Congress cut year-round Pell Grants in 2011, more than 7,000 students in New Mexico used Pell Grants to pay for courses during three sections of an academic year.

The Middle Class CHANCE Act will support students by:

  • Increasing the individual maximum award to $9,140, bringing the maximum amount to the average in-state tuition costs at public four-year institutions;
  • Restoring year-round Pell Grants, allowing students to receive additional Pell dollars for courses taken during summer or intercession; and
  • Allowing Pell Grant recipients to use awards for 15 semesters instead of the current 12 semesters.