Padilla, Butler Introduce Bill to Double Pell Grant, Make College More Affordable

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler (both D-Calif.) joined Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in introducing the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2024, bicameral legislation that would nearly double the Pell Grant maximum award, index the maximum award for inflation, and make other improvements to expand the award for working students and families. For the first time, this legislation would also expand the program to include Dreamers.

The Pell Grant program is the cornerstone of federal financial aid for postsecondary education, serving over 6 million undergraduate students.

“Every student deserves the opportunity to pursue higher education, no matter the size of their parent’s paycheck,” said Senator Padilla. “As a proud first-generation college graduate, I know the challenges students face in accessing an affordable education, especially as the cost of education continues to climb. Congress must take action to make higher education more accessible for all families and students, including the Dreamers who call America home and strengthen our workforce and communities.”

“As a proud recipient of the Pell Grant, I know the transformative power of the program in turning the dream of higher education into a reality for students in California and across the nation,” said Senator Butler. “We must expand the Pell Grant Program to put higher education in reach so that every student has the opportunity to succeed.” 

In addition to doubling the Pell Grant maximum award and indexing the maximum award for inflation, the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act makes the Pell Grant funding fully mandatory to protect it from funding shortfalls and restores lifetime eligibility for the program to 18 semesters, among other changes that will benefit students.

The bill is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Representatives Mark Pocan (D-Wis.-02) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.-03) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act is endorsed by American Association of Community Colleges (AACC); Association of Community College Trustees (AACT); American Association for State College and Universities (AASCU); Association of American Universities (AAU); American Association of University Professors (AAUP); American Association of University Women (AAUW); American Council on Education (ACE); American Federation of Teachers (AFT); American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC); Asian Pacific Islander American Scholars (APIA Scholars); Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU); Arizona Students’ Association; Associated Students of the University of California: Berkeley; Center for American Progress (CAP); Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Denver Scholarship Foundation; The Education Trust (Ed Trust); Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP); Jobs for the Future (JFF); Menlo College; National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU); National College Attainment Network (NCAN); National Education Association (NEA); New American Higher Education Policy Program; National Skills Coalition (NSC); Partnership for the Future; Phi Beta Kappa; Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Southern California College Attainment Network; State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO); The Hope Center at Temple University; Third Way; The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS); Today’s Students Coalition (formerly HLA); uAspire; United Negro College Fund (UNCF); UNITE-LA; and Young Invincibles.

Senator Padilla has consistently advocated on behalf of students to increase their access to higher education. He has led numerous letters urging President Biden to provide meaningful student debt cancellation, along with multiple letters urging U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to leverage his authority under the Higher Education Act to provide expanded student debt relief to working and middle-class borrowers. Earlier this year, Padilla hosted a webinar to encourage all eligible students across California, including those from mixed status families, to apply for federal and state financial aid. He also led a letter with 25 Senate co-signers to urge Secretary Cardona to address the FAFSA form error that prevents students with contributors, including parents and spouses, who do not have a Social Security Number from completing the new FAFSA form. Previously, Padilla cosponsored the College for All Act to make college tuition-free and debt-free for working families and introduced the Basic Assistance for Students in College (BASIC) Act to ensure college students are able to meet their basic needs while pursuing their education.

A fact sheet on the bill is available here.

Full text of the bill is available here.


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