4 | COMMUNITY COLLEGE JOURNAL AACC.NCHE.EDU
In early May, a last-minute budget deal in Congress
to keep the government open also called to bring
back year-round Pell grants, starting with the
2017–2018 academic year.
Year-round Pell provides grant aid to students to
use outside the typical academic year, usually to cover
the cost of summer courses. Supporters emphasize it
allows students to seamlessly continue their education and even shortens their path to completion.
“Restoring year-round Pell Grants is a bipartisan,
common-sense approach to making college more
affordable for hard-working students in Missouri
and across the nation,” says Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO),
chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees education funding.
In 2011, year-round Pell was eliminated after
just one year due to a large budget shortfall in the
Pell Grant program. The program currently has a
Last summer, the Senate Appropriations
Committee approved a bipartisan education appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 that called to reinstate
year-round Pell. However, a House appropriations
committee bill didn’t include similar language.
Reinstating year-round Pell has been a legislative
priority for the American Association of Community
Colleges, which last fall launched a social media
campaign to bring awareness to the importance of
Pell grants for students. The #Pell Yes tag on Twitter
gained 3. 5 million impressions.
Community college leaders are thrilled to see the
return of year-round Pell.
“Year-round Pell will be a terrific help in keeping
low-income community college students in a timely,
efficient completion of their academic pathways into
the workplace or transfer to a four-year institution,”
says Patricia A. Gentile, president of North Shore
Community College (NSCC) in Massachusetts. “We
have seen the results before.”
When year-round Pell was in effect in 2011, NSCC
students received nearly $275,000 more in Pell dollars
than in the following summer, when the program
was no longer available, according to Gentile.
The reinstatement is good news for employers,
too, who often look to local community colleges for
their workforce development needs, notes Mark
Mitsui, the president of Portland Community
College in Oregon who previously served as deputy
assistant secretary for community colleges at the
U. S. Education Department.
“Employers appreciate that Pell helps to shape
a skilled workforce,” he says.
Also in May, House and Senate Democrats introduced
the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act, which
would increase the maximum Pell Grant amount
and index it to inflation. It also would expand eligibility to include DREAMers and federal and state
prison inmates. In addition, the bill would extend the
lifetime eligibility limit from 12 to 14 semesters.
Sens. Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii and Patty
Murray of Washington and Reps. Susan Davis
of California and Bobby Scott of Virginia introduced the bill. It is one of several initiatives House
Democrats have proposed as part of their legisla-tive campaign, Aim Higher.
“The Pell Grant is the most important tool we
have to help low-income students afford higher
education, but for too long Congress has neglected
students by allowing the purchasing power of Pell
Grants to erode over time,” Scott said in a release.
“By reversing prior eligibility cuts and ensuring
stable funding for a larger Pell Grant, the Pell Grant
Preservation and Expansion Act will help millions
of students reach their potential without being
WHITE HOUSE BUDGET
At press time, President Donald Trump released his
proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which begins
in October. While it calls to maintain funding for the
Pell Grant program, it would shave $3.9 billion from
the program’s surplus. Such a move could lead to
future shortfalls in the program, according to AACC.
The pwroposed budget also includes cuts to student aid programs, and lower funding for career and
technical education (CTE) and job training programs.
Though Congress will craft its own appropriations bill, education advocates note that Trump’s plan
would significantly affected community colleges.
“These cuts would severely impact college affordabil-ity and all but eliminate an important pathway to the
middle class for many Americans,” AACC President
and CEO Walter Bumphus said in a statement.
For up-to-the-minute budget information,
N E W S & A N A L Y S I S Congress says #PellYes
By Tabitha Whissemore