"Forty years ago tomorrow, Senator Claiborne Pell stood with members of Congress and President Nixon as he signed a historic bill to provide low-income students with federal financial aid to pursue postsecondary education. As Senator Pell, the chief sponsor of the program that bears his name, often said: 'Any student with the talent, desire, and drive should be able to pursue higher education.' Those words are as true now as they were in 1972.
"Over the past 40 years, the Pell Grant program has supported more than 60 million students. In March 2010, President Obama made a $40 billion investment in the Pell Grant program, raising the maximum award to enable a full-time, low-income student to receive $5,635 a year for his or her undergraduate education for the 2012-13 academic year. The rising demand from students has resulted in a 50 percent increase the number of students eligible for Pell Grants.
"Pell Grants are an economic lifeline for millions of college students, but they are only one way to make sure postsecondary education is affordable. With the cost of college rising faster than family incomes, postsecondary institutions need to do their part to constrain college costs. States need to step up their investments in higher education, even in these difficult fiscal times. And Congress needs to act to sustain support for Pell Grants and stop interest rates on new student loans from doubling on July 1.
"As President Obama says, 'No one should go broke because they chose to go to college.' For 40 years, Pell Grants have been essential to helping millions of students pay for college. It's our collective responsibility to maintain our commitment to Pell Grants and other efforts to make postsecondary accessible and affordable to all."