Pell Grants Likely Face Cuts In Budget Talks

Ann McClure's picture

Some rancorous debate in Congress in the next few months could have significant consequences for college students — and plot the course for future higher-education funding.

Congressional budget-cutters are likely to tape a big bull's-eye squarely on the back side of the federal Pell grant program, which for 40 years has provided bedrock funding to make college more affordable for low- and middle-income students. As a big-ticket budget item, the Pell grant program makes an inviting target.

More than 9 million students now rely on Pell grants, which provide a maximum of $5,550 a year.

The grant money doesn't require repayment, but it now covers less than a third of the cost of attending a four-year public college compared with more than half a couple of decades ago. That's the smallest share in the history of the program, according to the Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit organization that promotes efforts to make higher education affordable.

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