In order for students to compete and excel in the 21st century economy, Congress must do more to ensure that they have access to a quality higher education and assurances that they will not be burdened by excessive student loan debt upon graduation. Pell Grants-- the foundation of federal financial aid for low-income students--are critical to this effort. Last month, we were disappointed to see the Senate Committee on Appropriations cut $1.2 billion in Pell Grant funding to address other funding needs in its Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) funding bill. As the House Committee on Appropriations continues to work on its LHHS bill, we strongly oppose any harmful cuts to Pell funding in this year's appropriations vehicle that will make college more expensive for students in future years.
To support future improvements to the Pell Grant program that will enhance access and affordability for low-income students, it is critical to preserve all available resources in the program--including a $7.8 billion surplus Pell is carrying forward in fiscal year 2017.
Rescissions, cancellations, or funding level cuts will worsen the funding outlook for Pell Grants and make it harder to strengthen the program through reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which Congress is expected to tackle in the coming months and years. Any current surplus balance reflects Congress' intent and commitment to make college more affordable for millions of students through updating the Pell Grant program.
The LHHS appropriations bill should not balance other funding needs on the backs of low-income college students. In 2017, we urge you to protect Pell Grants from damaging funding cuts that could make college less affordable for millions of Americans.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your response.