The bill, which must pass by Dec. 23 to avoid a government shutdown, includes a provision to increase the maximum yearly Pell Grant award to $7,395, CNBC reported. That’s a $500 boost over the current maximum of $6,895 and would be the biggest increase in more than a decade.
Federal Pell Grants are designated for low-income undergraduate students — and, in rare cases, those enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program — who display unique financial need and have not yet earned a bachelor’s, graduate or professional degree.
About one-third (34%) of undergrads receive a Pell Grant, according to the Education Data Initiative. The average award is $4,166, and nearly half (48%) of the grants go to students whose families earn less than $20,000 a year. Most Pell Grant awards go to public colleges and universities.
Every year, Congress decides how much to allocate to the maximum Pell Grant, and that maximum has risen steadily over the past decade. The $500 increase proposed in the current spending bill would be among the highest, but it’s still below what President Joe Biden proposed. As CNBC noted, Biden previously supported raising the Pell Grant to a maximum allotment of $8,670 in 2023, and has said he wants to see the payments double by 2029.
If Congress passes the current Pell Grant proposal, awards during the 2023-2024 academic year would range from a minimum of about $740 to a maximum of $7,395, according to CNBC. A lot depends on how much a college calculates that a student’s family will be able to contribute to their education costs.
Raising the Pell Grant maximum might take some of the sting out of recent problems that have sidelined the Biden administration’s proposed loan forgiveness program. That program, unveiled in August, aims to cancel up to $20,000 in debt per borrower. But it’s been paused due to various lawsuits challenging its legality. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments about the forgiveness program in February.
No matter how that plays out, it won’t have much impact on Pell Grants because they usually don’t have to be repaid. The exceptions mainly involve changing your enrollment status from full-time to part-time or leaving a program early.
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