Obama Administration Calls for Big Changes for Pell

The Obama administration on Tuesday announced two new proposals aimed at helping students make quicker progress toward earning college degrees.

One proposed change would significantly expand the Pell Grants by reviving year-round eligibility for the program. Reinstating year-round Pell Grants – a provision that fell victim to budget cuts in 2011 – would help students finish degrees faster by letting them take more courses during an academic year. Many full-time students exhaust their annual Pell eligibility after just two semesters and are unable to pay for summer courses and must wait until the beginning of the next academic year to continue their studies. The new plan would provide nearly 700,000 students with an additional $1,915 on average next year, according to a U.S. Education Department fact sheet.

The second proposal would create an "On-Track Pell Bonus" that would add $300 to the maximum award for students who take at least 15 credits per semester in an academic year – putting them on track to finish an associate degree in two years or a bachelor's in four. "Finishing faster means more students will complete their education at a lower cost and likely with less student debt," the department said. The proposal would help an estimated 2.3 million students next year.

Together, the two proposals would mean an additional $2 billion in Pell Grant assistance during the 2017 fiscal year, according to the department. Both would require approval by the Republican-led U.S. Congress.


Related Links

U.S. Department of Education Fact Sheet