Heinrich Aims To Increase Access To Pell Grants, Make College More Affordable

Introduces CHANCE Act To Increase Access To Pell Grants, Put Higher Education Within Reach For More Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24) introduced bicameral legislation, the Middle Class Creating Higher Education Affordability Necessary to Compete Economically (CHANCE) Act, to increase access to affordable post-secondary education for low- to moderate-income students. The bill would address the significant loss in value of Pell Grants by adjusting them for inflation, reinstate year-round Pell Grants, and increase the number of eligible semesters from 12 to 15.

"As the cost of tuition continues to skyrocket, we need to make sure all New Mexicans who strive for a college degree have a fair shot at affording it without being crushed by debt,” said Sen. Heinrich. “Pell Grants are the primary form of financial aid for millions of students, giving them access to an education that might otherwise be out of reach. The CHANCE Act ensures Pell Grants remain a useful tool for students and makes it possible for students to continue their education year-round, providing flexibility and enabling them to join the workforce sooner.”

“As someone who relied on Pell Grants to help pay for my college degree, I know firsthand the difficulty that students from working families face when pursuing the dream of a higher education,” said Rep. Carbajal. “The CHANCE Act ensures that motivated students from all economic backgrounds have a more even playing field to succeed. This legislation helps enable students to begin their careers and give back to our communities without the burden of crushing student loan debt.”

According to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, and the College Board, the withdrawal of state funding for public post-secondary institutions has shifted the burden of paying for college and therefore students are saddled with increased tuition and debt.

A Pell Grant is a financial aid tool provided by the federal government to help students and families afford college. Federal Pell Grants are awarded based on a student's financial need. Grants are dependent on the students’ expected family contribution; the cost of attendance; the student’s enrollment status; and whether the students attends a full academic year or less. Unlike a loan, Pell Grants do not have to be repaid.

Nearly 7.6 million students across the country depend on Pell Grants to pay for school. In New Mexico, nearly 55,000 students rely on Pell Grants to attend and complete college. Increasing access to Pell Grants is critical in states like New Mexico where state budget cuts have impacted funding for higher education and students are faced with increased tuition rates.

The Middle Class CHANCE Act will support students that are on their way or already in college by:

  • Increasing individual maximum award from $5,815 to $9,650, bringing the maximum amount in line with the average in-state tuition costs at public four-year institutions for the 2017-2018 school year.
  • Restoring year-round Pell Grants, allowing students to receive additional Pell dollars for courses taken during the summer or intersession.
  • Allowing Pell Grant recipients to use the awards for 15 semesters instead of the current 12 semesters.

A copy of the bill is available here