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House Hearing on Strengthening Pell Grants


December 5, 2013


House Hearing on Strengthening Pell Grants

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on strengthening the Pell grant program. This hearing was the eleventh in a series of hearings on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA).

Witnesses for the hearing were:

  • Justin Draeger, President, National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
  • Jenna Robinson, Director of Outreach, John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy
  • Michael Dannenberg, Director of Higher Education and Education Finance Policy, The Education Trust
  • Richard Heath, Financial Aid Director, Anne Arundel Community College

Suggestions for improvement of the Pell program varied throughout the course of the hearing, but a main theme was that the Pell program is successful and should not be eliminated or limited through reauthorization of HEA. Witnesses discussed the importance of simplifying the application process, strengthening eligibility requirements by requiring pre-requisite high school coursework or meeting benchmarks on the ACT or SAT exams, maximizing grant size, eliminating semester caps and ensuring flexibility for non-traditional students.

Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA) urged the committee to “tread lightly” when considering modifications to the Pell program that would negatively affect the ability of community college students to qualify for grant funds. Understanding the need to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in the financial aid system, he cautioned that the committee “not so restrict the environment out there for students” who want to participate in job training courses at community colleges.

A concerning omission from the discussions at the hearing was the acknowledgement of the need for Pell grant eligibility by students attending short-term job training programs at public, non-degree granting institutions that are often categorized as “not for credit.” These short-term programs lead to industry-recognized credentials for students and often times lead to higher return on investment traditional degree programs.

ACTE has submitted recommendations to the committee on Pell grant and financial aid eligibility as it pertains to HEA reauthorization, and we are collecting stories from members on financial aid eligibility of their students through the ACTE website’s “Share Your Story” feature.

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