CALIFORNIA—The University of California (UC) sent a letter to the California Congressional Delegation on Monday, March 1 urging them to take action on doubling the Pell Grant for college students.

In the letter, the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) and the University of California Student Association (UCSA) urged Congress to “double the Pell Grant” so it can reach “a maximum award of $13,000.”

The letter noted reasons like the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, affordability, and accessibility as reasons why Congress should take action.

The CSAC and the UCSA said the coronavirus pandemic “exacerbated the financial strain faced by so many of today’s college students.”  Students that “were already struggling to cover the costs of food, housing, transportation, and childcare before the health crisis caused campus closures and student displacement,” according to the letter.

The letter noted doubling the Pell Grant will not only “address the student basic needs crisis and meet long-term workforce needs to build back a stronger economy,” but it will “support individuals in gaining the skills that they need for the 21st century.”

According to the Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, Pell Grants “usually are awarded only to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree,” as stated on their website.

Pell Grants change annually.  For the 2021-2022 award year (which is from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022), the maximum federal Pell Grant is $6,495.  The amount a student receives depend on the following:

  1. Expected Family Contribution.
  2. The cost of attendance (determined by your school for your specific program).
  3. Your status as a full-time or part-time student.
  4. Your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.

On February 8, the University of California launched the “Double the Pell” campaign to “urge Congress and the new federal administration to charter a more affordable pathway to higher education for America’s students and families,” according to news release by UC.

The campaign says that doubling the Pell Grant will assist students meet their basic needs, increase financial aid to more college students, and “ease the student loan burden,” noted their website.

Ryan King, Associate Director of Media Relations, told the San Francisco News that the university has not yet received a response, but says there “is an opportunity to build bipartisan support” and said “investing in federal student financial aid is a priority for President [Joe] Biden — it was included in his campaign platform — and his administration has stated its support for doubling the maximum Pell Grant award.”

In addition, King said the goal is to double the Pell Grant “within the next three fiscal years” but are also “open to legislative paths that would achieve this goal sooner” which could include “a future budget reconciliation bill, legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), or through the annual federal budget and appropriations process.”

King confirmed to the San Francisco News that UC met with “members of Congress and their staff” as well as the Biden administration “to convey our support for this student-led campaign.”

The letter was signed by individuals including the CSAC, the UCSA, and Dr. Michael V. Drake, the President of the University of California, who urged people to sign a petition that calls on Congress to double the Pell Grant and said “Pell Grants pay off in brighter futures and a stronger California,” in a March 4 tweet.

The National College Attainment Network (NCAN), UC Advocacy Network, the Ohio Student Association, The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), and the Washington Student Association are among some of the organizations that are assisting UC with its campaign.