The University of California is “passing around” a digital birthday card for the federal government’s Pell Grant program, which turns 50 years old June 23. The card will be delivered to Congress with an appeal to “Double the Pell.”
“Few programs have transformed lives as directly as the Pell Grant,” UC President Michael V. Drake said in a letter to the UC Advocacy Network, or UCAN, last week. “Since the program launched in June 1972, Pell Grants have helped approximately 80 million Americans pay for college, including generations of Californians.”
As a first-generation student, the Pell Grant has been pivotal in my access to a college education. It has helped ease the burden of my student loans and helped me better provide for my needs while I pursue my degree. — Henry “Adrian” Rozo, UCAN student ambassador at UC Davis, where he is a first-year student majoring in political science
But, 50 years later, according to UC’s “Double the Pell” website, the program “falls far short of what students need to succeed." A UC fact sheet declares: "In 1980, Pell Grants covered more than 75 percent of the cost to attend a four-year public university. Today, the maximum Pell Grant award covers around 28 percent of the cost to attend a four-year public university.”
And so UC is calling on Congress for a new maximum award of $13,000 and then indexing the grants to inflation, saying such a move will:
- Ease the student loan burden — Nearly 7 million students receive Pell Grants nationally each year, but few can rely on them to fully finance their degrees.
- Help students meet their basic needs —Too many students struggle to pay for food, housing and health care. More Pell funding can help.
- Expand financial aid to more students — Greater federal support for Pell will enable colleges and universities to stretch their own aid funding to more families.
“As we celebrate the Pell Grant’s 50th anniversary, we hope you will join us in showing Congress the overwhelming public support for this program,” Drake said in his letter to UCAN last week. “By signing our Pell Grant birthday card, you can help us deliver a resounding message to Congress: Reinvest in the program that for 50 years has helped millions of low-income students across the country pay for college.”