Bustos Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Access to Pell Grants for Students

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) and Dave Loebsack (IA-2)  introduced the Flexible Pell Grant for 21st Century Students Act, a bipartisan bill that will allow students to use their Pell Grant awards year-round. Joining Reps. Bustos and Loebsack to introduce this bipartisan legislation are Republican Representatives Elise Stefanik (NY-21) and Carlos Curbelo (FL-26). Congresswoman Bustos has long been pushing for more flexibility for students with Pell Grants, especially those attending community colleges, and has previously introduced similar legislation in past years.

“As the mother of three boys, I know how important quality and affordable education is to getting a good-paying job and building a better life for hardworking Illinoisans in our region,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “After visiting each of the seven community colleges in our Congressional District, I heard from students and administrators about the need for more flexibility for Pell Grant awards – that’s why over the past few years, I’ve been pushing strongly for this bipartisan and commonsense legislation. This bill would give students more options in choosing when to take classes and would enable them to save money by entering the workforce faster. The colleges and universities in our region offer a pathway to success to so many Illinois students, so I’ll continue to do everything I can to help make higher education affordable and accessible for all.”

“As someone who would not have been able to attend college without the help of student aid, I was proud to author the original year-round Pell legislation that was signed into law in 2008,” said Congressman Dave Loebsack.  “After visiting schools across Iowa, I have heard from countless students whose ability to afford college would be significantly improved by the availability of year-round Pell grants. I look forward to reducing barriers to higher education institutions by restoring this important program. This bill would help provide Iowa’s students with the necessary training and resources required to be successful in the 21st century global economy.”

“As the youngest Member of Congress and the Chair of the House Republican Policy Committee’s Millennial Task Force, I am pleased to introduce this important, bipartisan measure to help make college more affordable for North Country families,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “This legislation is a direct result of concerns that were raised from my Higher Education roundtables throughout the district, and from Carole McCoy, President of Jefferson Community College. Right now, Pell Grants are only available for qualifying students during the fall and spring semesters. By expanding the eligibility window to include summer classes and increasing the possible maximum Pell Grant award by 50 percent, we can make sure that low and middle income families have added flexibility to achieve a college degree. As the first member of my immediate family to graduate from college, making higher education more affordable and more accessible is a top priority of mine and I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense legislation.”

“We need to ensure students who wish to complete a postsecondary education can do so as quickly and affordably as possible,” said Congressman Curbelo. “This bipartisan bill would help many South Florida students graduate faster and at a lower cost by providing them the flexibility to draw Pell Grant funds at a faster pace to pay for additional courses.”

Unfortunately, outdated higher education programs do not meet the needs of contemporary students, especially those who attend community colleges. For example, while the Pell Grant provides support for more than one-third of all undergraduate students, the program fails to adequately support those who want to complete their studies more quickly by taking additional courses beyond the traditional academic year.

After hearing concerns from students and officials from community colleges in our region, Congresswoman Bustos is proud to work across the aisle and introduce the Flexible Pell Grant for 21st Century Students Act, which will help students complete a postsecondary education more quickly and at a lower cost.